The Christ Child also known as Divine Infant, Baby Jesus, Infant Jesus, Child Jesus refers to Jesus Christ from his Nativity to age 12. Upon reaching 13 years old he was considered to be an adult in accordance with the Jewish custom of his time.
The canonical gospels lack any narration between his years infancy and the Finding in the Temple at the age of twelve.
Liturgical feast days
Liturgical feasts relating to Christ's Infancy include:
- The Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ (December 25);
- The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ (January 1 - Eastern Orthodox Church);
- The Feast of the Epiphany visit of the three Magi (January 6)
- The Feast of the Presentation in the Temple (February 2)
Depictions in art
The oldest image of the Child Jesus in existence dates back to the wall fresco in the Catacomb of Priscilla, belonging to a Roman noblewoman martyred for sheltering the cult of early Christians during imperial persecutions. 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 his foster father Joseph.
Depictions as a baby with the Blessed 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 to 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 similarly claim to have had apparitions of Jesus Christ as a young toddler.
During the Middle Ages
The Christ Child was a popular subject in European wood sculpture beginning in the 1300s. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. 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 depiction of the infant Child Jesus as naked during these times were not due to a sexual attempt to eroticize the trend, rather done to emphasize the perceived "innocence" and "virginity" of the Christ as a pious way to worship the supreme deity.
The growth of images being made 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 Holy Spirit or various paraphernalias related to its locality or region.
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 of Christmas Eve.
In the apocryphal texts
A number of 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 met 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.
- Holy Infant of Good Health
- Infant Jesus of Prague
- Madonna and Child
- Nativity of Jesus
- Niño Dios of Mexico
- Santo Niño de Atocha
- Santo Niño de Cebu
- Ferguson, George. Signs & symbols in Christian art, 1966, Oxford University Press US, p.76
- "Christ Child", The J.Paul Getty Museum
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- "Holy Family", Encyclopedia Britannica Online
- Roten, J. and Janssen, T., "Jesus as a Child"
- Media related to Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. at Wikimedia Commons