Theme 2 : Artwork 1

Reflection Title: 
Reflection Content: 

For years, I have been struck by a simple observation: when a person comes along the street with a babe in arms or in a carriage, almost everyone slows down, taking note of the newborn child. Some linger. Some move on, smiling or slightly embarrassed. A few—very few—deliberately ignore the encounter and turn the other way. New life brimming with potential holds a strange attraction for many of us. We are naturally inclined to turn our mind and heart toward babies, strange and unknown as they may be. We turn toward “those uncanny centers of otherness—the faces.”

Story Title: 
Born, A Holy Child
Story Content: 

. . . the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, with a message for a girl betrothed to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David; the girl’s name was Mary. The angel went in and said to her, “Greetings, most favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was deeply troubled by what he said and wondered what this greeting might mean. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for God has been gracious to you; you shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall give him the name Jesus. He will be great; he will bear the title ‘Son of the Most High’; the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David, and he will be king over Israel for ever; his reign shall never end.’” “How can this be?” said Mary; “I am still a virgin.” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will over-shadow you; and for that reason the holy child to be born will be called ‘Son of God”’. . . . “Here am I,” said Mary; “I am the Lord’s servant; as you have spoken, so be it.” Then the angel left her.  

—Luke 1: 26–36, 38

Contemporary Story Title: 
Call to Service
Contemporary Story Content: 

Psychiatrist Robert Coles worked with black children during the desegregation of elementary schools in the southern United States in 1961–63. He recounts the story of a young girl, Tessie, going to one of the first desegregated schools in New Orleans, and her grandmother, Martha, who prepared her for the daily ordeal. Coles explains: 

“On that day Tessie was not so much reluctant to go to school as tired and weary . . . The grandmother, privy as always to the child’s worries, doubts, and difficulties, knew full well her granddaughter’s state of mind that early morning. Tessie had suggested, over breakfast . . . that perhaps, for the first time, she would stay home from school . . . The grandmother said yes, that would be fine if Tessie truly wasn’t well. But if she was more discouraged than sick, that was quite another matter. Then came a disquisition which my old bulky tape recorder fortunately was prepared to receive.

“‘It’s no picnic, child— I know that, Tessie—going to that school. . . . But I tell you, you’re doing them a great favor; you’re doing them a service, a big service. . . .You see, my child, you have to help the good Lord with His world!  He puts us here—and He calls us to help Him out . . . You belong in that McDonogh School, and there will be a day when everyone knows that, even those poor folks—Lord, I pray for them!—those poor, poor folks who are out there shouting their heads off at you. You’re one of the Lord’s people; He’s put His hand on you. He’s given a call to you, a call to service—in His name!  . . .’

“As she was speaking, Tessie finished her breakfast, marched confidently to the sink with her dishes, put them in a neat pile, and went to get her raincoat and empty lunch pail from her room—all without saying a word. She was going to school, I realized. No further words on the subject were exchanged.”

—Robert Coles, (born 1929). The Call of Service: A Witness to Idealism

Artwork Title: 
A Child’s Spring
Artwork Content: 

The interpretation of the spring theme of The Chosen One was articulated in 1894 by Ferdinand Hodler’s contemporary, Mathias Morhardt (1863-1939), a writer and art critic:

“A sterile and desolate landscape. Rare herbs, of a greyish green, a little dull, sprouting up here and there in wan tufts. In the distance, the hill stands out neatly against the sky without mercy. Also the chosen child dreams of the sun and of flowers. In his emaciated nudity, he is shivering in this inhospitable landscape, while eagerly evoking pleasurable revivers. He has constructed with his frail hands a confined tiny garden… The herbs that his feeble efforts have been able to uproot from this garden are charmingly and naively marked by pebbles placed next to each other, in a manner of protecting the roots of the herbs against the harshness of the wind. In the middle he has planted a withered vine-stock, the lamentable silhouette of which ingeniously illustrates the illusion of the child. But this very child, having accomplished these laborious toils, has kneeled and invoked the favorable fairies who bring light, sun, springtime …” 

—Mathias Morhardt, (1863-1939). “Salons du Champ-de-Mars II: Les Artistes Suisses.”

Question Title: 
Why do I exist?
Question Content: 

Living in, loving, and sanctifying our world wasn’t granted to us by some impersonal theory of being, or by the facts of history, or by natural phenomena, but by the existence of those uncanny centers of otherness—the faces, faces to look at, to honor, to cherish.
—Italo Mancini, (1925-1993). Tornino I Volti [Back to the Faces] 

Are You Chosen?
Are you a chosen one? Do you have an early memory, a memory that echoes with Ferdinand Hodler’s painting: sitting in wonder before your own creation, surprised by it and sensing a presence surrounding you? Do you remember when you first knew you existed? Or have you had a sense, like so many, that you are not chosen? Has a sense of isolation ever flowed over you making the world seem desolate? Did that desolation ease or deepen? Why? How?

Music Content: 

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

Elizabeth Poston (1905–1987) composed this exquisite setting which she included in The Second Penguin Book of Christmas Carols, Elizabeth Poston, editor. She notes that “the beautiful visionary words in the imagery of the Tree of Life are printed without tune in Joshua Smith’s Divine Hymns or Spiritual Songs, Portsmouth, New Hampshire 1784.”

“Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.” Elizabeth Poston, Christmas at King's, King’s College Choir, Cambridge, David Wilcocks, conductor. EMI 2008. Disc 2, Track 13.


Spross aus Isais Wurzel [O Shoot of Jesse’s Stem]

The third “O Antiphon” proper to December 19 set by Arvo Pärt for four-voice choir.

“O Spross aus Isais Wurzel.” Arvo Pärt, Out of the Night, Taverner Choir, Andrew Parrott. conductor, Sony 1999. Track 5.


Es ist ein Rose entsprungen [There is a Rose Springing]

The melody is believed to date from the fourteenth or fifteenth century, but the earliest source is the Alte Catholische Geistliche Kirchengeseng, Cologne, 1599. Michael Praetorius arranged the melody in its most familiar form. The earliest version of the text (twenty-three stanzas based on Luke 1 and 2, and Matthew 2) was transcribed less than two decades before by Brother Conrad, a Carthusian of Mainz. 

This arrangement by Hugo Distler (1908-42) is an excerpt from the beginning of a chorale by the same name in a larger work, Die Weihnachtsgeschichte, Opus 10 (“The Christmas Story”).

“Es ist ein Rose.” Traditional German, arr. Hugo Distler, Christmas with Chanticleer, Joseph Jennings, director, Teldec Classics 2001. Track 4.

Image Theme: 
Image Thumbnail: 
Image Summary: 

The Consecrated One, (The Chosen One), 1893–94. Ferdinand Hodler, 1853–1918. 

Story Audio: 
Contemporary Story Audio: 

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