Lord, make us turn to you;
let us see your face,
and we shall be saved.
You may have heard of the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. The devotion consists of prayers and spiritual practices keeping in mind the face of our Lord as he underwent His Passion for us and our sins. It is inspired by images like the one on St. Veronica’s veil. As a mother and as Christmas nears, I am drawn to another face of Our Lord—the little, pudgy face of the Infant Jesus.
If you are a parent or have been present at birth, you know what a newborn baby looks like. So small and fragile, their big, pretty eyes are closed most of the time. Their skin is wrinkly and loose. Their nose little and smooshed. Their skin perhaps red and blotched from meeting the light for the first time. They are the most beautiful thing in the world, these fresh and tiny people.
In art, too often, Jesus is depicted as an idealized small adult. It is as if the artists have never seen a real baby. While I have no doubt that my Lord was a beautiful baby, I want to imagine a more realistic image of the newborn from Galilee, born in that cave in Bethlehem.
Here is a baby with a wrinkly forehead. Probably a little smaller than average because people in poverty like His parents can only eat so well. His vast, chocolate brown eyes opening only for brief moments to take in his parents or maybe some visiting shepherds. His head is sparsely covered with wavy brown hair, and his skin is a pure olive. His tiny body is swaddled in whatever cloth his parents can find. His bed, for the moment, is the trough that the animals usually eat from.
That infant Holy Face, the eyes are yet to see His passion, and His mouth is yet to share the words of everlasting life. After the initial shock of birth, as the cold hits His skin for the first time and the world hears His first cry, He spends most of His time sleeping and nursing. His eyes are closed. The wrinkles on His forehead are just the product of being a newborn, not from years of worry. He will never have the wrinkles of old age as His passion will cut His life short.
Like all infants, the Infant Jesus’ face is full of wonder and possibility. He takes in His Mother’s face through the blurry vision of a newborn. St. Joseph scoops him up for the first time. The animals keep this small family company on cold nights. Everything is simply accepted and loved (except discomfort, no baby likes that!).
I like this face because it is full of hope. Hope for the life ahead and hope for this new world. It is also full of peace. His world is so small right now, just this stable with His parents and the animals. He only knows comfort and discomfort. More complex and challenging experiences and feelings are still in His future.
Most of all, this face is a wonder. God, the infinite God, has come into the world in the form of a baby. God, a being that we all strive to understand, now has a face, and it is the face of a newborn. Those tiny hands are, in a sense, the hands that created the universe. As new as they are to our world, such small eyes are the same eyes that have seen all of time and space. This isn’t just another cute baby boy. This is God Incarnate.
At Christmas, we celebrate an impossible miracle, God becoming a man. He didn’t come fully grown in some massive explosion demanding all of our attention and changing the world with a wave. He came as a small baby born in a stable in a small town in an occupied country to poor parents. There were some bells and whistles, but nothing earth-shattering. It was relatively peaceful and pretty standard.
That beautiful face came into the world without much fanfare in order to save it. That little baby had a future ahead of Him that was beyond what any human could imagine.
I know how breathtaking that face must’ve been for His parents. I try to place myself in Mary’s shoes, looking down on this miraculous child. I ask you to do it, too. Imagine looking down on your newborn son and memorizing every inch of his face. He is the most perfect thing in the world. How much more perfect would be the Son of God? This face is destined to change the world. This is a face worthy of devotion.
Bethanie is a work-at-home mom with a young son. She received her MA in Pastoral Ministry from Aquinas Institute of Theology. She has been published in Ignitum Today and Patheos. In addition to TamingtheWilds, she currently writes for FemCatholic, CatholicMom, and Medium. She is a misplaced Missourian in New York.