The Mystery of the Nesting Dolls


Earlier this year, Mike and I stumbled upon a tiny shop in Helen, GA where they had an array of hand-painted Russian nesting dolls.  Beyond the common Matryoshka variety, they had one that began with the Nativity scene.  Of course I needed to see what was inside. Wouldn’t you?

Here is what I found: Nested inside Jesus’ birth was his baptism by John.  Within his baptism could be found Jesus praying. Inside Jesus’ prayer was Jesus on the cross. And in the center of it all—Jesus resurrected.  If one can be blown away theologically inside of a tourist gift shop, well, that would be me.  What a creative way to capture one of the deepest truths of faith that the seed of the paschal mystery is already present in the incarnation.  I tried to conveyed this with great enthusiasm to the woman behind the cash register who naturally had no idea what I was chattering on about.

So I’ve tried to communicate it more effectively here in my Christmas reflection for Catholic Women Preach (a fantastic website that if you are not already familiar with, you should be).  This short five-minute reflection is the fruit of something I’ve been pondering for the past couple years: that what happened in the birth of Christ and what happened in the death of Christ mirror one another.

It is an insight that I’ll be continuing to sit with for the next couple weeks because one of weirdest things about being a writer in a liturgically-minded tradition is that one’s writing deadlines will always put one out-of-sync with the rest of the church.  In these days immediately before Christmas, I’m actually working on a Lenten book study for parishes/schools to use connected with #Rules_of_Engagement (will be posted on the Ave Maria website soon!) and Easter reflections for the Catholic Health Association.  It’s a little disorienting but keeps the link between the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery at the forefront of my mind.

If you happen to be in the world of faith formation and are also caught up in planning for spring right now, please just let me know if you are looking for a good Lenten book to discuss in your parish/school.  I’ll be happy to share the #Rules_of_Engagement discussion guide as a Christmas gift… and that way we can keep the mysteries birth, death, and resurrection forever tangled together.