Skip to comments.Nativity animals
Posted on 12/26/2015 8:46:55 AM PST by Salvation
Msgr. Charles Pope
Question: I was told that the animals in the Christmas Nativity scene have a symbolic meaning. Is this so, and if so what?— Jennifer Ladd, Buffalo, New York
Answer: Yes, the traditional animals of the Nativity scene are chosen for a reason. The ox and the donkey are a reference to Isaiah 1:3 which says, “An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger; But Israel does not know, my people has not understood.”
So, it’s actually rather an unflattering self-accusation we make of our own human family that, in effect, declares the animals are sometimes smarter than we are. And sure enough, there was no room at the inn of our human city, so the animals welcomed Christ.
There is an antiphon from Christmas that goes: “O great mystery and wondrous sacrament that animals should see the Lord born and lying in a manger.” So the question for you and me is, “are we smarter than oxen or donkeys and can we understand the sacramental sign of Jesus the living bread come down from heaven lying in a feeding trough in a town called Bethlehem (which means “House of Bread”).
As for the sheep, who arrive with the shepherds, they surely point to Jesus, who John called the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” And this clearly points to Passover, wherein the blood of a lamb on the doorposts caused the angel of death to pass over, to spare the Jewish families the death of the firstborn males. It also points to the Temple sacrifices that sought atonement for our sins.
Jesus is now this for us, who by his blood saves us from eternal death and whose death atones for our sins.
Monsignor Pope Ping for his OSV column.
Ox and ass before Him bow
And He is in the manger now:
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!
Yes, the sheep point back to the Passover lambs, who were sacrificed as substitutes for the first-born sons. And they in turn look back to the story of the sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac, and the sheep caught in the bushes whom God provides as a substitute sacrifice for Isaac, after He has tested and proven Abraham’s faithfulness.
Fitting illustration for the day after Christmas.
Good morning Salvation!
I might add that those sheep may very well have been the sheep being raised specifically to market for sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Our new pastor (Filippino) told us a joke about a goat and Christmas: why there was no goat in the usual picture of a nativity scene. :o) It was cute.