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All About Mary


The following Nativities are each displayed in a unique permanent setting created by Marian Library Crèche Collection volunteers. The descriptive text for each was written by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Nativity set from Venezuela
Broken Pieces
Soibor Ceramica

Mended with care but still broken, the figures of this set from the highlands of Venezuela echo the age-old tradition of pre-Columbian art. Hollow, of thin burnt clay and conic in shape, the personages seem a mere pretext for ornamental intricacies and the beauty of geometry. Hieratic and tall, the actors of this set convey a sense of stability and calmness amid unrest. Mary stands alone, broken: a silent reminder of both human brokenness and healing.

– ML.0136.2

Nativity set from Venezuela
Silent Night
Unknown artist

Some Nativity sets make you laugh, others deliver a social message, still others want to make a cultural statement. Are there many to invite silence, drawing you into a mood of wordless contemplation? This set seems to qualify in more than one way. The figures seem like animated by a swaying rhythm of peaceful harmony. Their darkly luminous complexions set them off in gentle waves from the light green background, only to invite the spectator to follow them back into the silent night of starlit meditation. Wordless contemplation, starlit meditation is one of the things Christmas needs to offer.

– MLA.356

Nativity sets from Venezuela
In Praise of Mothering
Taller Elmilagio

This nativity representation emphasizes contrast and similarity. The two dominant mother figures are of pre-Columbian tradition. They represent a birthing mother (right) and a mother feeding her child (left). The nativity scene, dwarfed and traditional in style, suggests a stark but welcome contrast. Each of the figures is a little masterpiece of ornamental design in pre-Columbian tradition. Most important, the set is in praise of mothers then and now. One of them was Mary, mother of Jesus called Savior.

– ML.0138.22

Nativity sets from Venezuela
Best Friends
Unknown artist

Venezuelan Nativities come in many shades. Some imitate the rich ornamental beauty of pre-Columbian art. A more recent style combines the Latin American reaction against baroque gravity with the lightweight childlikeness of US nativity sets. This nativity, on a Chinese checker board, conveys playfulness with caution. The caution refers to the two animals, a playful version of ox and ass. They have always been best friends of Jesus; ever since God felt abandoned by his people and hailed the faithfulness of ox and ass (Isaiah 1:3). Not mentioned in Luke and Mathew, they stand for the intelligence and affection of animals — a challenge sometimes of human behavior. More important — and don't be jealous, Mary and Joseph — they announce Jesus' future: his willingness to carry the weight of the world (ass) and to be sacrificed on the cross (ox).

– MLA.33


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