Christ Child

The Christ Child, also known as Divine Infant, Baby Jesus, Infant JesusChild Jesus, the Holy Child, and Santo Niño, refers to Jesus Christ from his nativity to age 12.

The four Canonical Gospels accepted by most Christians today lack any narration of the years between Jesus’ infancy and the Finding in the Temple when he was 12.

Liturgical feast days

Liturgical feasts relating to Christ’s infancy and the Christ Child include:

  • The Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ (25 December);
  • The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ (1 January – Eastern Orthodox Church);
  • The Feast of the Epiphany (6 January)
  • The Feast of the Santo Niño (Third Sunday in January – Philippines)
  • The Feast of the Presentation in the Temple (2 February)
Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, mosaico della Madre di Dio in trono con il Bambino, circondata da quattro angeli. - panoramio

Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, mosaico della Madre di Dio in trono con il Bambino, circondata da quattro angeli. – panoramio

Depictions in art

From about the third or fourth century onwards, the child Jesus is frequently shown in paintings, and sculpture. Commonly these are nativity scenes showing the birth of Jesus, with his mother Mary, and her husband Joseph.

Depictions as a baby with the Virgin Mary, known as Madonna and Child, are iconographical types in Eastern and Western traditions. Other scenes from his time as a baby, of his circumcision, presentation at the temple, the adoration of the Magi, and the flight into Egypt, are common. Scenes showing his developing years are more rare but not unknown.

Saint Joseph, Anthony of Padua, and Saint Christopher are often depicted holding the Christ Child. The Christian mystics Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Therese of Lisieux, along with the devotees of Divino Niño such as Mother Angelica and Father Giovanni Rizzo claim to have had apparitions of Jesus as a toddler.

During the Middle Ages

The Christ Child was a popular subject in European wood sculpture beginning in the 1300s.

The famous statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague, given by Princess Polyxena of Lobkowicz to the Discalced Carmelites in 1628

The famous statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague, given by Princess Polyxena of Lobkowicz to the Discalced Carmelites in 1628

The popularity of the Christ child was well known in Spain under the title Montanesino after the santero sculptor Juan Martínez Montañés who began the trend. These icons of the Christ Child was often posed in the contrapposto style in which the positioning of the knees reflected in the opposite direction, similar to ancient depictions of the Roman Emperor.

The images were quite popular among nobility, while some images were also used to colonize kingdoms such of Spain and Portugal. Colonial images of the Christ child also began to wear vestments, a pious practice developed by the santero culture in later colonial years, carrying the depiction of holding the globus cruciger, a bird symbolizing a soul or the Holy Spirit or various paraphernalia related to its locality or region.

The symbolism of the Child Jesus in art reached its apex during the Renaissance: the Holy Family was a central theme in the works of Leonardo da Vinci and many other masters.

Tàladh Chrìosda

Tàladh Chrìosda (Christ Child Lullaby) is a Scottish carol from Moidart, Scotland. The Catholic priest Father Ranald Rankin, wrote the lyrics for Midnight Mass around the year 1855. He originally wrote 29 verses in Scottish Gaelic, but the popular English translation is limited to five. The melody, Cumha Mhic Arois (lament for Mac Àrois), is from the Hebrides and was a sung as a protective charm for the fisherman away at sea. The rhythm mirrors the rhythm of the surf. It is sung in the Hebrides at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

In the apocryphal texts

In some apocryphal texts, the Infancy Gospels grew up with legendary accounts of the intervening period, and these are sometimes depicted. These stories were intended to show Jesus as having extraordinary gifts of power and knowledge, even from the youngest age. One common pious tale has the young Jesus animating sparrows out of clay belonging to his playmates. When admonished for doing so on the Sabbath, he causes the birds to fly away.

As pious image of veneration

Several historically significant images of Jesus Christ as a child have received Canonical Coronations from the Pope, namely the Infant Jesus of Prague, the Santo Niño de Cebú in the Philippines, and the Santo Bambino of Aracoeli in Rome.

In the seventeenth century veneration of the Christ Child under the title the “Little King of Beaune” was promoted by French Carmelites. In the late nineteenth century devotion to the Holy Child of Remedy developed in Madrid.

Christ Child Society

The Christ Child Society was founded in 1885 in Washington, D.C. by Mary Virginia Merrick, as a small relief organization to aid local underprivileged children. Additional chapters were started in other cities.

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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