Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The Ox and the Ass
In virtually every depiction of the Nativity of our Lord one can find an ox and ass, in fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "the ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel does not know Me, and the people has not regarded Me" (Isaiah 1:3).
Traditionally the ox and ass are symbolic of the Jews and Gentiles, respectively, as Gregory the Great (c600) explained:
“Who is the ox if not the Jewish people whose necks were bowed down by the yoke of the Law? And who is the ass if not the pagan, whom any rustler finds a brute animal without any sense and leads him astray where he will. The ox knows his owner and the ass recognizes the corral of his master, for the Hebrew people found the God whom they had worshipped but not known, while the pagans accepted the forage of the Law which they had not had” (Commentary on Job, I, 16).
Fittingly the ox and ass gaze upon the Savior of the world.