Crucified Nativity


Nativity, Spiritual Exercises 116 – “… that he may die on the cross; and all this for me.”

In the Portinari Altarpiece
By Hugo van der Goes
The naked newborn Jesus
Lies on the cold bare ground
As Mary and Joseph, adoring, kneel
While angels, gathered round
And vested for a Mass, reveal
What would otherwise be missed:
     Jesus – there as the host,
     In a primitive Eucharist.

There are shepherds come to worship
Angels hover in the trees
A few are standing upright
Some kneel on angelic knees
There are angels vested in alb and stole
In surplice, cope, dalmatic
But none dressed in the priestly role.
Incarnate vulnerability:
    His flesh the chasuble
    That vests divinity

This image of a naked God
Susceptible of pain
Is Jesus hanging on the cross,
Fully naked once again,
Exposed to the worst men can devise
Thorn-crowned as King
In a ritual of shaming
As Mary, tendresse undefiled,    
      Shares the suffering
      Of his inner child

Eric Jensen, SJ, works in the Spiritual Exercises ministry at Loyola House, Guelph, Ontario. He also paints and writes. He is the author of Entering Christ's Prayer (Ave Maria Press, 2007)and Ignatius Loyola and You (Novalis 2018).

  • Mary Wells
    Posted at 07:59h, 25 May Reply

    When my son was three I took him to church. He had been before, but this time he studied the large crucifix behind the altar and asked “who is that man, Mummy?” Absently I answered “That’s Jesus”. His shocked reply jolted me out of my reverie. “They can’t do that to baby Jesus!” I could only reply “Yes, it was terrible.”
    Thank-you for your eloquent meditation, Eric.

  • olga protz
    Posted at 08:42h, 25 May Reply

    thank you Eric…Olga

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 08:06h, 03 June Reply

    Thank you Eric!

Post A Comment

Subscribe to igNation

Subscribe to receive our latest articles delivered right to your inbox!