In celebration of Christmas I wanted to offer symbolic commentary on the Nativity scene which is such a powerful image in the Western psyche at this time of year. Let’s begin by looking at the image of the Nativity as if it were a dream.
If you’d like to make this a personal exploration you can start by drawing the Nativity. Remember to include the angels, animals, shepherds, the Magi, Mary and Joseph, all within the manger.
In the center of the Nativity image is the Christ child, signifying the new life to come forth. Surrounding this are pairs of archetypal energies, deep wisdom patterns in the soul that guide our lives.
The first pair is the angels and the animals! The angels represent transpersonal states of consciousness, where we rise above our earthly cares and worries into experiences of harmony and beauty. The angels symbolize a movement of glorification, of lifting into the heavenly realms or higher states of consciousness. This movement of glorification helps raise our spirits in dark times working with the shadow of our inner darkness. Glorification is prevalent in the sacred Christmas music. As the darkness of this time of year prevails, the upliftment to the light can be supported through listening to beautiful music.
The angels are juxtaposed with the animals which represent our instinctual natures! We see images of the donkey, sheep, cattle, and doves. Just as there are angels and animals in the manger, both our angelic and animal natures are important in tandem. If our instinctual energies are split off and relegated to the shadow, we become out of balance, with our animal natures emerging in impulsive or violent ways. The Nativity shows us that the breath of the animals, of the instinctual nature, warms the Christ Child, the emerging consciousness. Integrated instincts warm the emerging new divine life in each of us. Our passion stokes the flames that keep us on a spiritual path.
The next pair of archetypal energies is the shepherds and the Magi. The shepherds represent the path of simplicity, a natural style of living. What is really essential in your life? The shepherds’ lifestyle is an antidote for the complexity and the busyness of our lives. How can we honor the parts of us that are like the shepherds, in tune with the natural rhythms, caring for the instinctual energies, living simply.
In contrast to the shepherds are the Magi, the wise ones. They read the stars, representing the parts of ourselves that look into the mystery and discern the underlying patterns in ourselves and our world. They are willing to leave the comfort of their homes and journey in search of the divine life, as in our own growth we have to leave our habitual patterns to look for places of new life . How can you release your old patterns, touch the presence within, open to your new life, fresh and alive! The Magi are moving towards the new life of the soul, the divine impulse which is represented by following the star. What is the star you wish to follow that illuminates your journey?
Mary and Joseph represent the alignment and integration of the masculine and feminine principles. Joseph, the dynamic masculine, is in a secondary role of providing support. He finds the location and the container for the birth of the emerging new life. He takes care of the outer world so that the inner life can be recognized and unfold. The time of the dark and winter represents the season of the feminine principle, Mary. She is the soul empty of all impressions, the place of stillness within. Out of this place of emptiness the new life represented by the Christ child can emerge. The busyness and commercialism of the season goes against this function of emptying and of finding the place of stillness.
The next pair of opposites are the Christ child and Herod. The newborn Christ represents the divine child of wonder, and aliveness, of soul, of joy. Herod represents the old rigid personality structures which wants to repress or kill the new emergence of life. Herod is the principle of Saturn, the old king, holding to the established forms. In each of us Christ must be born and Herod disassembled!
I wish for you this holy day season, the passion of emergence into new life and the courage to release the old patterns. May we all support one another in this awe-some task. .