Diapers Amidst the Epiphany

First of all, Happy New Year!

Second of all… thank you soooo much for your prayers. I am happy to announce that Baby #4, aka Michael, has finally arrived and is happy and healthy! In fact, he’s cuddling in my lap while I write this. Isn’t he beautiful???

If I look down, I see him snuggled up in my lap, and I am convinced that life cannot get better than this.

Last Sunday, when he was three days old, we went to his first mass for the celebration of the feast of the Epiphany. It was a lovely mass! Mind you, I admit, I was rather distracted during mass… what can I say? Newborn babies are a bit distracting and require a lot of attention! And work! (My wonderful husband might have missed part of mass for an impromptu and very necessary diaper change for our newborn.) And of course, newborn babies require lots of adoration too. Because babies are adorable and need to be adored.

Fortunately, the Christmas season is all about Baby Jesus, and Baby Jesus especially needs to be adored!

And so, without any further ado, I would like to divert your attention to this beautiful picture of the Adoration of the Magi:

Adoration of the Magi, by Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1494. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
Adoration of the Magi, by Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1494. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

This picture, of course, illustrates the gospel, which goes like this:

NABRE

Matthew 2

1When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:6‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;since from you shall come a ruler,who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”7Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” 9After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. 10They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Now, you’ll notice, if you read the gospel closely, that there’s an important figure in the Christmas story who is missing in this gospel. In particular, Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary, is notably absent.

Which begs the question… what exactly is he doing while this grand event is going on? And what exactly would keep him away from this spectacular event???

Which is one of the reasons why I love this picture so much: it gives a suggestion as to what St. Joseph would be doing away from the scene.

And so! If you look at the main panel, you will not see St. Joseph at all. It is all about Mary. Look at it carefully… though there are plenty of spectators around, St. Joseph is still notably absent.

Detail of Adoration of the Magi, by Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1494. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
Detail of Adoration of the Magi, by Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1494. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

The three magi pay homage and give their gifts to Baby Jesus… in fact, one of them is even offering a golden statue of Jesus being lifted (or perhaps descending??) from the cross in what would be a powerful foretelling. All around, spectators look from and around the stable in a curious manner.

But St. Joseph isn’t in view.

Instead, he is off to the side in one of the side panels, which is usually reserved for lesser scenes or donors. Take a look at the whole artwork… can you see him?

Adoration of the Magi, by Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1494. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
Adoration of the Magi, by Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1494. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

Here, I’ll help you… here’s a close-up of St. Joseph:

Detail of Adoration of the Magi, by Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1494. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
Detail of Adoration of the Magi, by Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1494. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

In this picture, St. Joseph holds up clean diapers in front of the fire so they can dry faster. Mind you, his face is still turned toward the commotion and so he is watching the scene from afar. But, he is focused on the task which he needs to do. Which, in this case, was drying diapers.

And so, when my husband disappeared from mass for a bit to take care of our newborn, I had to smile. Because it’s easy to forget, in the grand Christmas excitement, how important little these little acts of love can be. Frequently, we focus only on the grandiose gestures — such as exciting presents — and take for granted these tiny actions!

And yet these little acts of love — even if these actions may seem monotonous or mundane — are what help sustain us throughout our lives.

In fact, these little acts of love are often what God calls us to do.

And so, toward the end of this Christmas season, may we count the little blessings in our life, no matter how little they may be. And may we be strengthened to love one another even more!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of three, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer

One thought on “Diapers Amidst the Epiphany

  • January 10, 2020 at 3:18 pm
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    This was SUCH a fantastic post! Oh my goodness, so great. Never knew St. Joseph was hiding in a painting like this.

    Oh, and congrats on little Michael!!! Beautiful and blessed.

    Happy Epiphany!
    Greg

    Reply

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