Because of the holidays we haven’t been updating much (being in the states is more of an excuse), but today I felt that we should bring you a little bit of that Colombian Christmas spirit.
It starts in the 17th century when a statue of the Infant Jesus was brought into the Czech Republic. He looked like this:
There is a more detailed story which you can read about here. As you can see Holy Infant Jesus of Prague looks pretty royal and sophisticated.
In 1935 a Salesian Priest named Juan del Rizzo arrived in Bogotá at one of the poorest neighborhoods “el 20 de Julio” (the 20th of July) and brought the Holy Infant. They didn’t like him because of he was a reminder of older times when only the select were allowed to distribute the image. Father Juan then went to a religious art store in Italy and had a new image made just for that neighborhood. (yeaah making religious icons) It looked like this:
Isn’t he so much more accessible? Well, after that everyone loved the new image and he proliferated around the country. I think the coolest part is the pink tunic. So, from then on he was called “El Divino Niño Dios” (Holy Baby God).
What does he have to do with Christmas? Every year starting 9 days before Christmas a large prayer called the “novena” is said and repeated every night. It consists of many prayers for Mary, Joseph, Holy Baby God, etc. with the intention of obtaining special graces (or presents) from God and recounting the trip that Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem. Its origins are actually found in a Greek and Roman custom, who used to mourn for nine days for their dead loved ones in order to mollify the gods. The whole mourning and praying thing has been transformed into more of a caroling and praying thing.
The prayer for the Holy Baby God is said every day:
“Acuérdate, ¡oh dulcísimo Niño Jesús!, que dijiste a la Venerable Margarita del Santísimo Sacramento, y en persona suya a todos tus devotos, estas palabras tan consoladoras para nuestra pobre humanidad agobiada y doliente: “Todo lo que quieras pedir, pídelo por los meritos de mi infancia y nada te será negado”. Lleno de confianza en Ti, ¡oh Jesús!, que eres la misma verdad, vengo a presentarte mis necesidades.
Ayúdame a llevar una auténtica vida cristiana, para conseguir una eternidad feliz. Por los méritos infinitos de tu encarnación y de tu infancia, concédeme la gracia que te estoy pidiendo (aquí se expresa el favor que se quiere alcanzar). Me entrego a ti, oh NiñoOmnipotente, seguro de que escucharás mi súplica y me fortalecerás en la esperanza.”
“Remember, oh sweet baby Jesus! your words to the Venerable Margarita of the Holy Sacrament, and in person to all of your worshipers; such consoling words for our poor and burdensome humanity: “All that you desire, ask for it through the worth of my infancy and nothing will be denied”. Filled with trust in you, oh Jesus, that you are truth itself, I come to you with my needs.
Help me to lead an authentic christian life in order to obtain eternal happiness. Through the infinite worth of your incarnation and infancy, grant me the grace that I am seeking (here you express the favor you seek)*. I give myself to you, oh Omnipotent Child, sure that you will listen to my plea and will strengthen me through hope.”
Basically, Holy Baby God is the Colombian equivalent of Santa Claus. He is supposed to be born at midnight on Christmas Eve and then go out and give everyone their presents. When you’re a child they tell you “Go to bed so Baby Jesus can be born and bring you your presents.” It seems like a lot of work for a baby, but then again he is Holy Baby God.
*Here, the person who is reading the prayer will stop and allow everyone to pray to the Holy Baby God the presents they want for Christmas.