The following Nativities are each displayed in a unique permanent setting created by Marian Library Crèche Collection volunteers. The descriptive text for each was written by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Nativity set from Madagascar

No Island
Unknown artist

The dominant figure of the angel in this wood carved nativity from Madagascar reflects a tradition of religious art which can be observed in various cultures. Here the angel does not hold the role of messenger so much as represent the presence of divine reality. Where there is an angel, God is present, and where there is a tall angel like this one, divine presence is particularly intense. In this case, an effort was made to link traditional religion with Christianity; the angel stands also for the Great Spirit that governs the universe.

What seems like an island of ragged contours is, in fact, no island but the continent of God's presence, sometimes visible, as in the Incarnation, but mostly hidden by seas of busy indifference. However, the offer of Christmas stands firm. As a star sends its light to the world, so the Christ child extends his loving call to all of creation.

– ML.2613, ML.0179.20

Nativity set from Madagascar
A Matter of Survival
Zafimaniry Artisans
This nativity set has been carved by Malagasy artisans belonging to the tribe of the Zafimaniry, and living in Ambositra on the island of Madagascar. The wood used comes from a non-hardwood tree called Vandriaka. Zafimaniry people are known for the decorative carvings of doors and windows of their homes. Begun as a conservation measure by Catholic missionaries in the 1960s, the Zafimaniry were instructed in the craft of figure carving as a means of saving the lushly forested areas of their habitat, while assisting the people to find sources of income. These smooth, shining, and beautifully carved figures are a tribute not only to the artistic abilities of the Zafimaniry, but also to their will of economic and cultural survival. So much in life is a matter of survival! The message of Christmas is no exception.

– ML.0146.09
Nativity set from Madagascar
Traveler's Palm
Betsileo Artisan
The Traveler's Palm, although not a true palm, is native of Madagascar. It takes its name from the comfort it may offer to stranded travelers. Indeed, the sheaves of stems of the Ravenala madagascariensis hold rainwater which can be used as an emergency drinking supply. The Traveler's Palm reminds of another palm tree similarly helpful and a "good Samaritan." There exists an apocryphal account according to which on their flight to Egypt the Holy Family found shelter under a palm tree. It bent its stem and foliage dutifully obeying the Child's command and so lent its fruit and shade to the exhausted travelers.

– ML.4185