Friday, January 25, 2008

The Biblical Basis for the Devotion to the Sto.Nino

I. Biblical Basis

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shall call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1: 21)Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23)And the angel said to them, "And this shall be a sign to you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. So, they went with haste, and they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. (Luke 2:12, 16)And entering the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they worshipped him. And opening their treasures they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

II. Context

Devotion to the Infant Jesus is as old as Christianity itself. It ever tends to keep the great mystery of our Lord's birth vividly before us. The foregoing scriptural texts are the proofs for the adoration and praise the Holy Child or Sto. Niño. He Who is our Savior, He Who is called Jesus because he shall save his people from their sins is worthy of adoration.Here in our country there are many images of the Holy Child or Sto. Niño: that of Cebu, of Pandacan, of Tondo, of San Beda.One image of the Sto. Niño which is widely known is that of Praga and the story of which is as follows: The 9-inch statue of Sto. Niño was brought to Bohemia by Maria Manriquez de Lara, a Spanish princess (it was her mother's gift for her wedding).

She, in turn, gave it to her child, Princess Polyxenia of Lobkowitz. After the death of the princess' husband, she devoted herself to works of charity and was particularly helpful to the Carmelites in Prague. When in 1628 the Carmelite Monastery had been reduced to poverty, owing to the ravages of war, the princess gave her precious statue to the Carmelites, saying:GIVE YOU WHAT I PRIZE MOST HIGHLY IN THE WORLD; HONOR AND RESPECT THE CHILD JESUS AND YOU SHALL NEVER BE IN WANT. Her gift was placed in the Carmelite oratory. The words of the princess proved prophetic for as long as the Carmelites kept up their devotion to the Divine Infant of Prague everything prospered with them. The Carmelites were later forced to flee from the city and in the confusion of the war they were unable to take with them their miraculous statue.The invaders seized it and threw it into a pile of rubbish. In 1635, peace came to Prague and the Carmelites returned. One of them, Father Cyril, who had previously received great spiritual help through his devotion to the Infant of Prague, sought the statue and found it amidst the rubbish. Overjoyed, he placed the statue again in the oratory.As Father Cyril was one day praying devotedly before the statue, he heard a voice saying:HAVE MERCY ON ME AND I WILL HAVE MERCY ON YOU. RETURN MY HANDS TO ME AND I SHALL GIVE YOU PEACE. THE MORE YOU HONOR ME, THE MORE I SHALL BLESS YOU.

Startled by these words, Father Cyril examined the statue and upon drawing aside the mantle covering it, he found that both hands of the statue were broken off. The hands were restored to the statue through the generosity of a client of the Divine Child. Once more peace and prosperity returned to the Carmelites.Devotion to the Divine Child had always been practiced by the Carmelites for through their Mother, Mary, this Divine Child had come to the world. St Teresa of Jesus practiced particular de- votion to the Divine Child. St Therese, the Little Flower, was also a most fervent venerator.

III. Reflection

Hail! The Divine Infant Lord!On the feast of the Sto. Niño we celebrate with joyful hearts and living faith the mysteries of the childhood of our Lord Jesus Christ. His whole human life, from the incarnation on, including his birth, circumcision and presentation, the flight to Egypt, the event of the twelve years old in the temple and the hidden years at Nazareth are directed to and find meaning in the mystery of Jesus' death and resurrection.

These mysteries have to be seen as part of the whole mystery of Christ. When we celebrate the mysteries of the childhood of Jesus in the Liturgy, they are in some way made present and we are enabled to lay hold of them and become filled with their saving grace. We must not forget that the mystery of the kingdom of God had not been revealed to the wise and understanding but only to those who turn and become themselves like children.

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