By Lynnea Pruzinsky Mumola
Catholic Standard (www.cathstan.org)
Miguel Angel Cámara, mayor of Murcia, Spain, helped present a manger and room-size nativity scene to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary here Dec. 8.
"In this time of the year when there are many wars, many difficulties in the world, it is important to share the announcement of the news that the Lord (came to earth,)" Cámara said.
Cámara said that the manger was not only an artistic composition but a representation of beliefs and thoughts shared in his country from generation to generation. "We proudly share these arts in Washington, at this seminary which will form priests with the mission to evangelize - the hope of the future," Cámara added.
The official spoke at a blessing of the new manger held on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Archbishop Donald Wuerl blessed the handcrafted manger and figurines which cover an estimated 21- by 24-foot platform in the foyer of the archdiocesan seminary.
"When I first heard about this gift, I never imagined a nativity so big, so spectacular" Archbishop Wuerl said. The sprawling scene includes a mountain with running water, and several types of terrain including dirt, sand, gravel and stones lining the base. Many familiar Gospel stories are depicted throughout including the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth, the wise men's journey, the shepherds' encampment, and the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. There are also depictions of everyday life as one woman is washing her clothes, one is baking bread and another man plows the field.
"The practice of setting a manger was begun many years ago by St. Francis of Assisi as a way of setting forth and telling the story of Christmas," the prelate said. "As we look up at these figures we are moved to rejoice at the Christmas Gospel."
For theologians, the manger depicts the Incarnation, God's dwelling among men, Archbishop Wuerl said. "But for most of the rest of us, it is Mary holding her baby ... we come because we want to see the Lord Jesus," he added.
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop emeritus, and Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, of the Archdiocese for the Military Services also attended the event.
Father Gianni Buontempo, vice-rector of the seminary, said officials at the seminary are still discussing the possibility of inviting the public to view the nativity sometime in the future. The priest said after the Christmas season the nativity will be stored in a basement room in the seminary, but the challenge will be reconstructing the scenes and the figures as they were by the artist.
Juan Antonio Griñan created similar nativity figurines for several Redemptoris Mater seminaries throughout the world. The artist said it took about six months to design the figurines for the Hyattsville nativity. The figures were then wrapped in plastic and packed in cartons before being placed into shipping crates. Griñan shipped the pieces to the seminary at the end of October. He traveled from Spain with two assistants on Dec. 1. The team worked on setting up the nativity everyday until one hour before the blessing, said Pablo Fernandez del Gado, one of the assistants.
Del Gado pointed out the buildings in the nativity scene as representative of Spanish architecture. The artist also designed Mary's house after the poor cottages near Murcia right down to the clothes-line with orange peels drying in the sun. The poor sell the peels as a source of income, Del Gado said.
He said the 30-centimeter-tall figures were made of clay with real material incorporated into the clay for clothing. The figurines in the manger are slightly larger and stand at 40-centimeters high.- - -
This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of the Catholic Standard (www.cathstan.org), official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.