Symbolism of the Nativity Scene Animals

Over and over the nativity scene came to my mind. I questioned why? I heard, “Bring the animals in the nativity scene to life.”

I have a habit when wanting to understand the symbolism of an animal, I go straight to my book, Animal-Speak. As I picked up my book I felt a pull to the computer. I was drawn to Wikipedia searching “nativity scene.”

I found that “Saint Francis of Assisi (known as the patron saint of animals) is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223. It was a living nativity.

I looked further down the page and found “Animals in nativity scenes.” With no basis in the canonical narratives of the birth of Jesus, an ox and ass are usually part of the nativity scene. The tradition may have arised from an extracanonical text, the Pseudo-Matthew gospel of the 8th century:  ”And on the third day after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, Mary went out of the cave, and, entering a stable, placed the child in a manger, and an ox and an ass adored him.” Then was fulfilled that which was said by the prophet Isaiah, “The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib. Therefore, the animals, the ox and the ass, with him in their midst incessantly adored him.” Then was fulfilled that which was said by Habakkuk the prophet, saying, “Between two animals you are made manifest.”  In a 1415, Corpus Christi celebration, the Ordo paginarum notes that Jesus was lying between an ox and an ass.” Read the rest of this entry