What Child is This? Or rather, What Children are These?

by | Dec 17, 2021 | Christmas, Holidays, Jesuit 101

The following reflection is part of our “Jesuit 101” series, celebrating the Ignatian Year. This piece helps us to dive deeper into the Contemplation on the Incarnation from the Spiritual Exercises. To learn more about this contemplation, check out our explainer article: “Jesuit 101: The Contemplation on the Incarnation: Why and How Jesus Shows Up”.

When I was in my first year of formation as a Jesuit in Grand Coteau, LA, I sat outside one day to draw a vine covered grotto next to the parish church. Five boys were running around after the morning mass, and one of them stopped to ask what I was doing. I showed them the beginning of my drawing, and one immediately asked, “can we be in it too?” I laughed and agreed, but warned them that they would have to stay still while I drew them “so the drawing wouldn’t turn out blurry.” 

Taking this admonition seriously, they quickly scrambled up the grotto to take their place in the composition. One boy knelt in front of the Our Lady of Fatima statue, mirroring a statue in the similar position across from him. They stayed absolutely still while I included them in the sketch. Once I was finished, they ran over to see the final product. Even in the simplistic sketch, they delighted in pointing out which one was them. They recognized and relished their own image in my work.

Those boys’ fascination with the world reminded me of the child Jesus I know from prayer. Whenever I imagine Jesus as a kid, he is eating something sweet: an ice cream cone, a fruit roll up, or a piece of cake. Something about becoming incarnate means that he can experience these things with a child-like freshness, as though all things are new to him.

As Jesus grew, I imagine that he retained this childlike enjoyment of life, in his connection with children and in his jokes with his friends, maybe even wearing a silly disguise at times.

During Advent, I often wonder about what it means that God took on this child-like attitude. It is as though in the drama of our human lives, God chose to be cast in a marginal role. My drawings have helped me to explore what the childlike qualities of Jesus reveal about God.

By becoming incarnate as a child, Jesus expresses God’s delight in the world. In the composition of our human lives, God relishes the opportunity to be included, even in our quick sketches and simple compositions.

During this Advent season, where might there be room to include Jesus in the composition of your life? How can you delight alongside the child Jesus in the sweetness of this world?


Philip Nahlik, SJ

pnahliksj@thejesuitpost.org   /   All posts by Philip