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The Infant of Prague : (a statue of Spanish origin brought to Prague c.1556)
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33)
“The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.”
The Infant of Prague
“The image of the Master, one glimpse and we are in love.”
Zen Master Ikkyu (1394-1481)
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”
“This passage is a discussion of the Day of the Lord. This is the day that Christians look forward to when Jesus Christ will remove the curse of sin from our world and restore peace to all of creation. As a result of this peace, wolf, lion, lamb, cobra, calf, bear, and children will all live in harmony...Let us stop using this phrase as if the Bible tells us that children will one day lead adults...If we are going to quote Bible verses, let us quote them in context. Isaiah 11:6-9 is a wonderful passage that describes what God has in store for this fallen world that has so much violence, fear and death. It will be a world of peace.”
Tim Farley : “Theologically Speaking” (2009)
I began my formal “illustration vocation” with my first book, “The Cathedral Book” by Maureen Gallagher, published by Paulist Press in 1982. I was so excited to get my first copy that I took the bus to Paulist Press in Mahwah, New Jersey and honestly, had an ecstatic, tear filled look, on the way back to Brooklyn where I was living. It seemed next to impossible to get a book as an art student, but after getting one book, Paulist Press hired me for more. Even during the years I spent as an AIDS Hospice chaplain, I continued to illustrate children’s books, and a few for adults. I talked my dear friend Fr Jim Janda (1936-2010) into writing a trilogy of legends about the Child Jesus, that were actually parables about the kingdom of God; “The Legend of St Christopher,” “The Legend of the Holy Child of Atocha,” and (the legend of the Infant of Prague) “Appointments With The Little King.” In many ways I think illustrating children’s books during those painful years of never ending death, really kept me hope filled, young and alive.
I am aware how many people find the very idea of the Infant of Prague almost embarrassingly incredulous. But I have always been attracted to the inherent contradiction of the infant king, because of the Gospel reversal of everything we deem important in the Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5, Luke 6).
Part of the tradition of the Infant statue, is that you cannot buy one for yourself. He has to be given to you or “appear.” During the late 1980’s I held Healing Masses, once a month, for people with HIV-AIDS at Our Lady Guadalupe Church on 14th street in Manhattan; walking distance from St Vincent’s Hospital. I had been working on the illustrations for “Appointments With The Little King” and the legend was very much a part of my life. In many stores around the section of little Italy in Manhattan, there were statues of the Little King in the windows and I was tempted to buy one. But one night I showed up for the healing Mass, and there he was, on a table in the sacristy. Someone had brought him to me not knowing a thing about the book I was illustrating. There are many references in the Gospel about becoming like a child (not childish but childlike) and to me it boils down to being open, capable of receiving the surprises of gratuitous grace, humble and ... always “looking up” - mouth wide open like a baby bird, waiting for God to feed you. The legend of the Spanish statue being brought to Prague is the story in the children’s book and it was a real delight to draw the pictures. My dear friend JJ, (Fr J Janda) wove another story within the legend, of the child appearing in different places round the world startling people and in some cases being outright rejected. These surprise visits JJ called, having an “appointment” with the little king.
This icon was commissioned as a wedding gift for a young married couple. It was so joyful for me to return to the Little King. I robed him in the healing color of green (Hildegard’s “viriditas”) and placed 3 Japanese style birds in flight in a yellow medallion on his breast. These are for the continual movements or (see a beautiful theology of Fr Bernard Lonergan, SJ) the “processions” of the Holy Trinity. He holds the orb of the world in one hand and blesses you with the other. One bare foot is stepping out of the Icon; he’s on his way to an appointment with you.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb down the middle of the great city. On each side of the river stood the Tree of Life,
bearing twelve crops of fruit for every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of nations...and night will be abolished they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining upon them...The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ ... I am indeed coming soon. Amen: come, Lord Jesus.”
The Apocalypse (Revelation) chapter 22
Maranatha ‼️ Come Lord Jesus !
Fr Bill McNichols 💮Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe 2021