In Byzantium the Icon is (not an additional, but the only proper) school for all the members of the Church. Perhaps the first thing one learns for the Birth of Christ in this school is to think about the Birth abandoning a sentimental perception that would make a projection of our every day experiences from our families. Then one sees in the centre of the Icon the Mother of God and the baby, but separately! Mary only seldom (in few icons) is occupied with Christ.
Contrary to the animals that are as close to Him as they can and without the mediation of thinking, the Mother of God thinks instead of having an immediate relationship – thinking about the meaning of the Birth, as we do looking at the Icon, or about the temptation of Josef, or about something else – in any case, she is the first inside the Icon that invites us to think, to acquire a reasoned awareness of the Birth.