The Christ Child, also known as Divine Infant, Baby Jesus, Infant Jesus, Child Jesus, the Holy Child, and Santo Niño, refers to Jesus Christ from his nativity to age 12.
The four canonical gospels accepted by most Christians today lack any narration of the years between Jesus' infancy and the Finding in the Temple when he was 12.
Liturgical feast days
Liturgical feasts relating to Christ's infancy and the Christ Child include:
- The Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ (25 December);
- The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ (1 January - Eastern Orthodox Church);
- The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (also Infant of Prague) (3 January in the Latin rite, others various);
- The Feast of the Epiphany (6 January)
- The Feast of the Santo Niño (Third Sunday in January - Philippines)
- The Feast of the Presentation in the Temple (2 February)
Depictions in art
From about the third or fourth century onwards, the child Jesus is frequently shown in paintings, and sculpture. Commonly these are nativity scenes showing the birth of Jesus, with his mother Mary, and her husband Joseph.
Depictions as a baby with the Virgin Mary, known as Madonna and Child, are iconographical types in Eastern and Western traditions. Other scenes from his time as a baby, of his circumcision, presentation at the temple, the adoration of the Magi, and the flight into Egypt, are common. Scenes showing his developing years are more rare but not unknown.
Saint Joseph, Anthony of Padua, and Saint Christopher are often depicted holding the Christ Child. The Christian mystics Saint Teresa of Ávila, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, along with the devotees of Divino Niño such as Mother Angelica and Father Giovanni Rizzo claim to have had apparitions of Jesus as a toddler.
During the Middle Ages
The popularity of the Christ child was well known in Spain under the title montañesino after the santero sculptor Juan Martínez Montañés who began the trend. These icons of the Christ Child was often posed in the contrapposto style in which the positioning of the knees reflected in the opposite direction, similar to ancient depictions of the Roman Emperor.
The images were quite popular among nobility of Spain and Portugal. Colonial images of the Christ child also began to wear vestments, a pious practice developed by the santero culture in later colonial years, carrying the depiction of holding the globus cruciger, a bird symbolizing a soul or the Holy Spirit or various paraphernalia related to its locality or region.
Tàladh Chrìosda (Christ Child Lullaby) is a Scottish carol from Moidart, Scotland. The Catholic priest Father Ranald Rankin, wrote the lyrics for Midnight Mass around the year 1855. He originally wrote 29 verses in Scottish Gaelic, but the popular English translation is limited to five. The melody, Cumha Mhic Arois (lament for Mac Àrois), is from the Hebrides and was a sung as a protective charm for the fisherman away at sea. The rhythm mirrors the rhythm of the surf. It is sung in the Hebrides at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
In the apocryphal texts
In some apocryphal texts, the Infancy Gospels grew up with legendary accounts of the intervening period, and these are sometimes depicted. These stories were intended to show Jesus as having extraordinary gifts of power and knowledge, even from the youngest age. One common pious tale has the young Jesus animating sparrows out of clay belonging to his playmates. When admonished for doing so on the Sabbath, he causes the birds to fly away.
As pious image of veneration
Several historically significant images of the Child Jesus have received a Canonical Coronation from the Pope, namely the following:
- Child Jesus of Arenzano in (Italy)
- Infant Jesus of Prague in (Czechoslovakia)
- Santo Niño de Cebú (Philippines)
- Santo Bambino of Aracoeli in Rome (reconstruction)
Christ Child Society
The Christ Child Society was founded in 1885 in Washington, D.C. by Mary Virginia Merrick, as a small relief organization to aid local underprivileged children. Additional chapters were started in other cities.
- Child Jesus representing the Passion of Jesus Christ, c. 1820, Weingarten
- Holy Infant of Atocha, Mexico
- Santo Bambino Aracoeli Rome
- Santissimo Gesu de Malines
- Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, mosaic of the Mother of God enthroned with the Child, surrounded by four angels
- Santo Niño de Cebu
- Child Jesus images in Mexico
- Holy Infant of Good Health
- Infant Jesus of Mechelen -for a discussion of the style of sculpture
- Santo Niño (disambiguation)
- Santo Niño de Atocha
- Maria Bambina
- Ferguson, George. Signs & symbols in Christian art, 1966, Oxford University Press US, p.76
- "Christ Child", The J.Paul Getty Museum
- "Contrapposto". Archived from the original on 2015-04-16.
- "Holy Family", Encyclopædia Britannica Online
- "Roten, J. and Janssen, T., "Jesus as a Child"" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-05-13. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
- Descouvemont, Pierre., Therese and Lisieux, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996 ISBN 9780802838360
- "Brief History of the Holy Child of Remedy", Friends of Anne of St. Bartolomew
- Christ Child Society
- Barga, Michael. "Christ Child Society", Social Welfare History Project, Virginia Commonwealth University