By Honore Onana Olah, SJ
“Joy and love” are the words that the Jesuits and their collaborators took away at the end of the Christmas Mass in which they participated in the chapel of Hekima Jesuit community in Nairobi, Kenya.
Indeed, the Christmas Vigil Mass was presided over by Fr. Gaspard Sunhwa, SJ, professor of Moral Theology at Hekima University College. During his homily, he invited the faithful present to take advantage of this moment to taste the joy and love that the newly born Child Jesus brings to us.
The preacher of the day notably affirmed that “joy is one of the themes that we find in the Gospel of Luke.” That joy is brought by the Prince of Peace who has come. Explaining about the mystery of Incarnation, Fr. Sunhwa, SJ, said that “the Incarnation is the climax of God’s love to humanity… God loves us so much that He decided to become a human being. This love is called Christ’s event. Because the incarnation up to the resurrection is one event. Through the incarnation, you come to see the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus.…it is Christ’s event. Showing the relation among those events he added: at His birth “Jesus was wrapped with the swaddling clothes and placed in a manger because there was no place for bed.” Same similarity during his burial as “he was wrapped with linen clothes and place in a tomb where no one yet has been laid. Three – three” he added.
It should also be noted that the Crib made this year was on the model of the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAP) of the Society of Jesus. As Pope Francis said in his letter of confirmation of the UAP on February 6, 2019, “the proposed preferences are in agreement with the current priorities of the Church as expressed through the ordinary magisterium of the Pope, the Synods, and the Episcopal Conferences, especially since Evangelii gaudium.”
It is in that sense that three Jesuits (Chilima Muntanga, Joseph Sahayanathan and Rajitha Waas) have invested in producing a beautiful Crib on this model. They have used waste material like empty bottles, newspapers, clothes etc. to come up with figures of the Holy Family and the animals. They have purposely removed the faces of the Holy Family in order to identify the life of the Holy Family with that of the poor, the marginalized, the refugees and all those who do not have an identity.
According to Rajitha Waas, SJ “ as young Jesuits, this is the first attempt to do such work of Art as a team and this handmade Crib gives a chance to be able to do more refined work in future.” And “the idea to use waste materials, and put it in that order is to support the UAPs which stand for showing to people especially the youth where we are involved in our apostolate, the way to God; walking with the excluded and the poor and caring for our Common Home” he added.