Talk about striking visuals at the beginning of Advent!

Talk about the artist’s imagination that juxtaposed these items in front of the main altar at St. Gerard Majella’s Church. The display engulfs worshipers in pregnant silence: simultaneous emptiness and fullness, a fitting manner to prepare for the Christ mysteries.

Each item speaks of rich symbolism. The sheepskin, positioned in the shape of a newborn, evokes the Israelites’ Passover lamb; its blood, smeared over their doorposts, directed the avenging angel’s slaughter of the Egyptians’ firstborn.

In the Christian tradition, Jesus of Nazareth was recognized as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), his bloody crucifixion and death resonating with the Passover Lamb; both wrought salvation: Israelites from Pharaoh’s enslavement and Christians from the bondage of sin.

In the gospel of John, Jesus dies at the precise moment that the unblemished Passover lamb is sacrificed in the Temple at Jerusalem.

Within the outline of the sheepskin, the blue fabric suggests the mantel of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the woman who knew life, its joys and vicissitudes. The cruel crown of thorn and the jeweled one speak of Jesus as Suffering Servant and as King, frequent themes found in both Old and New Testaments.

And the straw-filled manger speaks of humility, critical to entering the Christ mysteries with their teachings; the rumpled white fabric, freed from swaddling clothes.

A simple arrangement in the sanctuary of this church, but one that nudges surrender to peace and joy—such happens within prayer.