The home picture is the ecological Christmas Crib of 2017 made by Fr. Wilfred Sumani, SJ, Hekima’s resident liturgist. Here he is giving us the theological explanation:
Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat.
(John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I, 1-5).
Of old, when God created man and woman, God placed them in the Garden of Eden. God watered the earth and made it produce fruit-bearing plants. Humanity lived in harmony with the rest of creation. The sin of Adam, however, led to the expulsion of humanity from the Garden. Paradise was lost.
Christ came to restore humanity to the bliss and harmony of the primordial Eden. As St. Paul says, “if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many” (Romans 5:15). With Christ, Paradise is regained.
This year’s crib captures this theological truth by situating Christ’s birth in the Garden of Eden, conflated with the African continent. The four rivers flowing out of the Garden are transposed onto four great African rivers: the Nile, the Niger, the Congo and the Zambezi. They flow into African communities placed at the four corners of the Garden.
The African continent is characterised by the following elements, among others:
Wealth (natural resources), symbolised by the community painted in gold. Christ, the exemplar of generosity, invites us to use our wealth to enrich others, especially the poor: “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2Cor 8:9).
- Youthfulness, represented by the community painted in yellow. Prophet Joel associates youth with “visions” (Joel 2:28). The future of the continent lies in the hands of the youth, for they are full of energy and vigour (Job 33:25) and are not afraid to fly high like the eagle (Psalm 103:5). Jesus is the shoot that comes up from the stump of Jesse.
- Abundance of Life, represented by the community painted in red. African communities value life. The birth of a child brings joy to the whole community. The more the children the better! The birth of Christ, therefore, fills the African heart with great joy.
- Ancestral wisdom, represented by the community painted in silver. African traditions are rich in wisdom that promotes communion, harmony, forgiveness and compassion. As the Psalmist says, “a gray head is a crown of glory” (Psalm 16:31). Christ is the Wisdom of God, for in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3).
Ecological Value of the Crib
- The crib is made from glass powder, mixed with glue and sand. The mixture was dried in the sun.
- The manger is painted green to represent Jesus’ communion with creation. Jesus invites us to return to the primordial communion between humanity and nature.
- There are twelve candle holders constituting the four pillars standing at the four corners of the Garden. There are also twelve small candles placed around the four pillars. In biblical numerology, the number twelve represents the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. It is a symbol of completeness. Each of these candle holders can be used separately after the Christmas season. They are all refillable.