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November 18, 2020
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November 18, 2020

The Nativity story through the eyes of a grumpy, old ox

By Juliana Valdez

Intriguing, fascinating, enlightening……are some of the words I used to describe how I felt after viewing the conversation between Dough Keck and his guest, author Anthony De Stephano on a recent episode of Book Mark on EWTN.

They were discussing a few of the author’s children’s books but the one which they went into detail about was one entitled, The Grumpy Old Ox, a Christmas story.

De Stephano shared he likes to write children’s books with joy, pleasure and fun, and weaves adult themes into them so that when adults read to the children, they themselves will be impacted by the contents of the books.

The illustrations in The Grumpy Old Ox, were done by Richard Cowdrey, and are colourful, bold and expressive. The author explained he used animals instead of people so that children would be excited and motivated to read.

The author did a reading of the book and the illustrations were shown as he read about this ox who was grumpy, stubborn, partially blind, ached with pain, selfish and cold.

Based on the Christmas account of Mary and Joseph arriving at Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, the book tells of the inn keeper/master of the ox ushering them into the stable where the grumpy ox was.

Realising that the “lady” gave birth to a baby, the ox pushed his pail of water with which she bathed the baby. He then pushed the manger forward so that she could place the newborn on the bed of straw. He then lay down at the feet of the “lady” and saw all who came to visit the baby, shepherds with their animals and the three wise men with their gifts.

The ox on observing the activities exclaimed, “This baby must be special, sent from above, that’s why the stable is so full of love. He must be from God, he must be a king, that’s why the people are worshipping him.”

The host and the author then discussed the theological underpinnings contained in the story, revealing that “Everything in the Bible has a meaning, teaching us how God wants us to live.”

In the story, the author shared that the word ‘manger’ is a derivative from a word meaning to eat; Bethlehem means house of bread; the pail of water a symbol of the cleansing, purifying waters of baptism.

He also shared the following: ‘Hubris’, Greek for pride (the sin of Satan) is what makes one angry, prideful, mean, grumpy, selfish and cold. All leading to spiritual blindness and alienation. That was the position of the ox.

The virtues contained in the story were: care and consideration for others which were shown by the ox towards Mary when the baby was born, humility which leads to happiness and eternal life.

The Nativity story, the author revealed is shot through with Eucharistic imagery. In the exclamation of the ox, “I drank from the water now I can see, I ate from the Manger, now I am free.” He reminded us that Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Spring of Living Water. After being in the presence of the Lord, eating and drinking of Him, we can’t stay the same.

The ox spent the night at Mary’s feet and when he awoke he was transformed, showing that through our relationship with her and her intercession on our behalf, healing help is received.

Imagine that, a story well known and repeated, but now being viewed with different eyes. For the ox, what was blurry became crystal clear; so too change should be imminent for us after being in the presence of the Lord!