“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” Luke 12:49
Annunciation by Michael Wening
Christians of every persuasion unite around the repetition of the Our Father. But in a sense the Lord’s Prayer is a model of how to pray – not the only prayer we are to say.
Making the sign of the cross is a physical expression of prayer which reflects our interior disposition (at least to an extent). Kneeling is also a physical expression of prayer but less revealing of one’s “beliefs” than making the sign of the cross.
All of our spiritual acts and words leave an impression upon our souls. The memory is a faculty of the soul, an “inner sense” as Aquinas described it. Surely the memory takes note of all our spiritual acts and prayers, especially those that tend to be repetitive.
So let’s consider briefly just a few words from one prayer; the Hail Mary, which is a prayer based on scripture and the tradition of the Church. (The first half of the Hail Mary comes straight from scripture; Lk 1:28, 42, 31. The second half is a simple petition expressing the age old mind of the Church.) Let’s consider one clause from this ancient prayer of the Church: “…blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus”. These words were spoken by Elizabeth to Mary when Unborn Jesus was about one week old – He was in Mary’s womb when the words were spoken by Elizabeth who was probably just a few feet away from Him.
“Blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus”. These words have been prayed by Catholics zillions of times over two thousand years, but more to the point, each individual Catholic has heard these words over and over again and prayed these words over and over again. The message of these words is like a radiant beam of glory aimed at the heart of the Christian. The point here is that these words are packed with message and meaning.
Some would take issue with recitation of this prayer by quoting Jesus Himself: “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do…” (Mt 6:7). The point here is that this phrase – this glorious phrase “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus” – is NOT an empty phrase, it is scripture, it is a phrase “pressed down, and shaken together, and running over” – bursting and overflowing with meaning, direction and hope.
So, the Church is guilty of being fixated upon, even obsessed with, the wonder, the beauty and the glory of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. And we haven’t even mentioned Christmas yet!
“Blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus” has been a luminous track for the faithful, lo’ these many centuries, for the illiterate and literate alike, for the weak and the holy alike. These words have upheld a Truth about Jesus Christ which has led the Church into its profound and expansive Pro – Life position concerning all other unborn children in the wombs of their mothers.
Dare we say it? “Blessed is the fruit of every mother’s womb!”
Bonfigli’s Annunciation with St Luke taking notes…
75 verses in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel detail the nine month pregnancy of Elizabeth and the happy birth of her son John (later to be known as ‘the Baptist’). Plus two angelic visitations, the Incarnation of the Son of God, the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, two inspired canticles (still repeated daily by the Church) and – if that were not enough – a sublime miracle of the first order performed by none other than the Embryonic Christ Child! What a chapter!
When was the last time you visited this first chapter of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? It behooves every Christian to know it well. Pregnancy is best understood – with all due respect to the dignified practice of Obstetrics and Gynecology – first and foremost as a sacred mystery in the ever unfolding litany of the creative acts of our Loving God. Today pregnancy has become “a hot potato”, “a political football” because a jaded class of sophisticates believe that ending a life in the womb is better than engendering love within the heart. Our world today – and the Church today – need (more than ever) the first chapter of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, written they say, by a doctor…
Chapter Two is just as good if not better – it leaves you on your knees worshipping a little newborn Baby!
The beginning of life, like the end of life, is shrouded in mystery. The human person at each end of this spectrum is drawn into it, turned about within it, slowly compelled to stare at it. Life’s full blown mystery beckons…..
Gen 3:19 “…till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Eccl 12:7 “…and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
Job 1:21 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Mystery begs contemplation! And the unborn child is immersed in mystery… for in the dust, the human spirit, the nakedness, and yes in the “beckoning” – there is mystery abundant.
Compounding the metaphysical mystery of the unborn child’s life is the existential mystery of his/her passage through a nine month journey of incipiency, a phenomenal rapid growing unparalleled by any other human experience. Throughout this developing awesome growth the unborn child tastes, hears, sees, touches – and then even dreams of these experiences, and in a primitive self-reflective manner – ponders or wonders….
Psalm 139:13-16 “For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb…. Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.”
In a sense, an unknown yearning sense, the unborn child longs for “the days that were formed for (this child)”…”every one of them”… This is more than a mere instinct for survival – this is the holy Will of his/her Creator that beckons the unborn child onward. A primordial hope welling up within the unborn child’s maturing heart as it timidly images the Great Heart of God.
Birth! The newborn scrambles onto the human stage post haste. Humanity, Beauty and Creation embrace the child! Within the newborn heart the engine of Hope draws the child from disorientation to expectation! And from without, human Love carries this newborn contemplative through the mystery of those early days…!
Our Lady de la Esperanza. Our Lady of Divine Hope.
Iglesia de San Martín.. Sevilla. Photo: Rafael Marquez
Towards the end of the Bible that now famous “great multitude in heaven” cry out, with what might be called in the news media a ‘sound bite’: “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…” (Rev 19:1). This is a most poignant triple touchstone for understanding God. Given the focus of this blog, we will briefly consider how the Archangel Gabriel touches upon these three aspects of Mary’s Son when he announces to her the fast-approaching Incarnation of the Son of God. We will look at ‘glory’ and ‘power’ first then conclude with ‘salvation’. Gabriel tells Mary that her son:
- “will be great”
- “will be called the Son of the Most High”
- He will have given to him “the throne of his father David”
- “he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever”
- “there will be no end” to “his kingdom”
- “the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God”
We see repeated references and implications here to Jesus the Son of God being filled with glory and power, exercising unending and unlimited power, and manifesting His glory and the glory of His Father.
But what does Gabriel say about “salvation”? Before all of these other titles and expressions of power and glory, Gabriel says: “…you shall call his name Jesus”. The name ‘Jesus’ means: “Yahweh is salvation”. So the first title from the angelic lips of Gabriel – the name of her son – points directly to the salvific life and mission of the son Mary would bear.
This saving power that the Son of God was bringing into our world was attested to by angels in association with each trimester of Mary’s pregnancy. At the immediate beginning of the first trimester Gabriel makes his annunciation to Mary (Lk 1:30-35). Around the second trimester the angel of the Lord tells Joseph in a dream: “…you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). And immediately following the third trimester, an angel of the Lord appeared in the Bethlehem sky to the shepherds and told them: “…to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).
So we can say with great thanksgiving, paraphrasing Rev 19:1 – “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God… and even to unborn baby Jesus”.
Representation of the Child Jesus in the womb of Our Lady of Divine Hope. Photo: Rafael Marquez
In Numbers 13 the Lord instructed Moses to send spies into the land of Canaan to scope out the land and the people and the various fortifications around their cities. The spies went into Canaan and spent forty days there as the eyes of the Lord. They returned, but most of them were weak in their faith and gave pessimistic anxious reports of what they saw. Joshua and Caleb however, were true faith-filled spies and saw things more optimistically – they had a more inspired interpretation of the land, its inhabitants and God’s designs for Canaan and the chosen people.
Eyes, apparently are not enough to see clearly. The eyes function in unison with the intellect and the heart. Joshua and Caleb saw things as God wanted things to be seen and understood.
In a unique and singular sense, as the time for the Incarnation of the Son of God approached, – God’s radical invasion of our world – and then later during those initial months and years of the Incarnation, the Virgin Mary’s eyes were God’s eyes in Israel. Her outlook was dependable. As the angel Gabriel said to her: “…you have found favor with God” (Lk1:30). But more, for that particular time in the history of the world, God wanted maternal eyes scoping out the land and the people and sheltering His only-begotten Son.
Mary’s maternal eyes – and her maternal heart – were key to the Incarnation of the Son of God. She could see the will of God – she could understand the will of God as well as any human heart could fathom it. She became during those days – as Joshua and Caleb did in their own time – a Faith Leader for the people of God!
In our own time, we look to Mary and we must see in her this continuing role of Faith Leader for the Church. And more, as the Mother of Jesus Christ, she becomes a mystical Faith Leader for each member of the Mystical Body of Christ. She helps each member of the Church to see the Presence of God in His Church, she helps each one to see the unfolding designs of God for His Church, she encourages each one in following the Will of God. We can say that she understands the Incarnation and the Plan of Salvation and helps interpret these mysteries for us, in our individual lives.
When Mary reports to you what she has seen in God’s plan for your life – listen to her! She is only human, but 2000 years ago God specially equipped her for her role then and now in these latter times, God has specially equipped her for her new ongoing role within the Church, for now and for ever.
Monday, May 31st is the Feast of the Visitation. After Mary conceived Christ in her womb, she “went with haste” to the home of her cousin Elizabeth (probably in Ain-Karim, on the outskirts of Jerusalem); about a 4 day journey. She traveled with confidence; Christ in her womb, the Spirit in her heart, the will of the Father clearly outlined within her intellect, and a peaceful harmony between God’s Will and her own.
The Gospel of Luke gives a wondrous account of Mary’s arrival at the home of Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-56). This encounter, this Gospel event of the first magnitude, is regrettably much neglected by believers in general. Yet it is a Pro-Life “Feast Day” of the first order! When Mother Teresa of Calcutta gave her famous Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech she mentioned this prophetic scene of two unborn babies meeting. In his prophetic Pro -Life encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), John Paul II refers to this scene twice (#45, footnote to #61), calling it a “magnificent episode”. Others have marveled at this event as well, for example; Archbishop Fulton Sheen: “when pregnancy met pregnancy” we witness “A Pentecost came before Pentecost” (The World’s First Love).
Mary greets Elizabeth, unborn John leaps “for joy” in his mother’s womb. Luke feels compelled to relay this event twice (verses 41, 44). The Catechism of the Catholic Church weighs in on this beautiful mystery of our faith: “John was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb’ by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to His people” (CCC #717, emphasis added).
So, the just-conceived Unborn Christ acts deliberately here! He fills the unborn baby John with His Holy Spirit; virtually a gift of Himself, a redeeming gift which prefigures the salvation of the world. God has singled out one tiny unborn baby – just days after His Incarnation – into whose heart He pours His Spirit (fulfilling Gabriel’s promise of Lk 1:15). An exquisite prefiguring of His Redemptive Mission… and a tender sign of His impenetrable Love for all unborn babies (of whom John is a representative; every unborn baby).
The strong manly apostle, St. Paul, had a tender side to him and revealed it, from time to time, to his “children in the faith”. For example, in letters to the churches of Corinth and Philippi, he speaks about writing to them with tears (II Cor 2:4. Phil 3:18). But one of his better known quotes advises: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15).
Christ Himself is the model for this. St. John the Evangelist describes a very emotional scene following the death of Lazarus, when Mary the sister of Lazarus falls on the ground weeping before Jesus, and her friends and neighbors are around her weeping as well. John tells us that Jesus “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled”. Then He asks where the body is laid, and when the people say “Lord, come and see” – Jesus breaks down and weeps. We are told that this is the shortest verse in the entire Bible: “Jesus wept” (Jn11:35).
Over the past few decades, billions of tears have been shed for unborn children. We can speculate that mothers have been the primary source of these rivers of tears simply because they are so close to unborn children, their lives more sensitized to tinier lives hidden within their bodies, their hearts listening for soft heartbeats signaling life close by.
Back in the early 1970’s, as the Pro – Life movement was quickening, there was a powerful photograph of a tiny unborn child removed as a result of an ectopic pregnancy – my recollection is that the people referred to it as “the teardrop baby”. The doctor who took the photo spoke about the remarkable effect this tiny unfortunate “unborn” child had on those present. But the image of an “unborn” baby naturally formed into a teardrop stopped people in their tracks.
Doctors tell us that unborn children feel pain (Watch Me Grow, by Professor Stuart Campbell, M.D., 2004). This is, of course, to state the obvious. 3D ultrasounds show unborn babies grimacing. Do they cry also?
Christ died for us, and no doubt He also shed tears during His Passion for us. In his Letter to the Galatians St. Paul speaks of “the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). In effect, St. Paul is saying that Christ ‘died for me’. We can all say this with confidence. Likewise, each of us can say ‘Christ shed a tear for me’. Which also brings us back to the unborn children – Christ shed a tear for each unborn child and loves each one personally.
Divine tears and human tears are a part of our lives now. The tear Christ shed for me is His tear of Hope for me. Because a great sign of the New Jerusalem is that God Himself will be with us and “He will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes” (Rev 21:3-4).
The Life of St. John the Baptist is depicted in this Icon
You know Luke’s marvelous account of the Visitation, when Mary greets Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s baby leaps for joy within her womb. Let’s look at this from a different angle:
Previously the Angel Gabriel had told Elizabeth’s husband that her son John “will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Lk1:15).
Mary is pregnant with Unborn Jesus when she arrives at the home of Elizabeth, greets her and then unborn John leaps for joy. The leap signifies that John has just been “filled with the Holy Spirit”.
Let’s look at how the Catechism of the Catholic Church comments on the scene: “John was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb’ by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people” (#717). Note carefully that John is filled with the Holy Spirit by Christ himself. It is Christ Unborn – perhaps but a week old within His mother’s womb – who acts, who initiates.
But the Catechism goes on to say that the visit is truly a visit “from God” – that is, Unborn Jesus – “to his people” – that is, primarily to unborn John. So unborn John represents the people of God – that is, the Church.
What happens when “God” visits “his people”? He pours His Spirit into them. One of the greatest documents from Vatican II is Lumen Gentium (“Christ is the light of humanity…” it begins). It refers to the Church as “the people of God” and tells us that Christ “sent the Holy Spirit to all to move them interiorly to love God…” (LG 40). Of course, this is what He did for unborn John the Baptist!
In a section specifically about the laity, Lumen Gentium specifically teaches: “The laity become powerful heralds of the faith in things to be hoped for (cf. Heb 11:1) if they join unhesitating profession of faith to the life of faith” (LG 35). This is what unborn John did! After Mary, he was the first ‘herald of the faith’ through his ‘unhesitating profession of faith’! (For if he experienced joy he must have been given the gift – even if only temporarily – of reason, and thus also the gift of faith in his Redeemer. So the Church Fathers believed.) By leaping, he is heralding the faith. The first layman was an unborn layman!
Lumen Gentium also states: “Every lay person, through those gifts given to him, is at once the witness and the living instrument of the mission of the Church itself ‘according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal’ (Eph 4:7)” (LG 33). After Mary, Unborn John is the Church’s first “witness” and “living instrument of the mission of the Church”.
The reading for Mass today included these wonderful words:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
From the first cell stage of His conception and new human life, Christ loved His Father in heaven and all of us on earth. Pope Pius XII assures us that from the first moment of His conception, “the Heart of Jesus, ever to be adored, began to pulsate with love, divine and human” (On Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus).
We know that from the first moment of His conception the Unborn Christ (as Zygote, the one cell stage) joined His will to the will of His Father (Heb 10:5-7). ) Pius XII tells us “But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all that the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the beatific vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love.” The Mystical Body Of Christ, #75
We believe too that Christ loved His mother from the first moment of His conception (and that she joined her will to His; “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Lk 1:38
And a week later in her Magnificat, when Mary says “My soul magnifies the Lord…” first and foremost, she magnified the Love of Christ hidden within her. His love was bursting forth from the womb which contained Him. His love, in a sense could not be contained along with His tiny body, within the womb of His mother.
When Mary arrived at the home of Elizabeth (six months pregnant with John the Baptist), the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that it was “Christ Himself” who filled unborn baby John with His Spirit of Love (CCC #717). Christ demonstrates His love here for unborn baby John and all unborn babies!
Out of Love, Unborn Christ inspires His mother to stay for the entire pregnancy of Elizabeth, accompanying unborn John lovingly to birth.
When they return to Nazareth, Unborn Christ loves Joseph too. In Bethlehem He loves the shepherds, the wise men, even those who rejected Him and His pregnant mother at the door of the Inn. At His glorious birth in the manger, His powerful Love broke forth like a wave of Love across the earth, hidden for a time, but affecting Mary and Joseph and countless others who would discover in time the message of Redeeming Love!
Tis the Season of ‘The Gospel of Life’
The Virgin and St. Joseph Refused Shelter in Bethlehem by Jan Massys 1558
We showed up at the Inn in Bethlehem but there was no room. The Innkeeper turned us away – my mother (nine months pregnant) and me, a little ‘preborn’ baby! I was rejected by humanity, so we sought shelter with animals, rodents and insects in the cave manger near the fields. I forgave this Innkeeper because he didn’t know what he was doing. Everyone should be more welcoming to pregnant mothers and unborn babies. Lk 2:6-7
We come now to another aspect of the Unborn Christ Child’s solidarity with many unborn children of our day, His rejection in His time of need. Caesar wanted a census taken throughout the Roman Empire for utilitarian purposes concerning power and wealth. Everyone’s lives got caught up in his imperial desire, including Joseph of Nazareth and his family. Mary was probably in her ninth month when they made this evangelical journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
According to scripture, and a star in the sky, Bethlehem is where the Messiah would be born. But the welcome the pregnant woman and her husband received in the City of David was disappointing. All that scripture relates is that Mary’s baby was placed “in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7). For two thousand years Christians have wrestled with this scene and it always seems to spell ‘rejection’ loud and clear. Rejection by the local inn keeper, implied rejection by unmentioned relatives in the vicinity and rejection by humanity in general, since they end up with animals (and angels) marginalized in a manger of rejection.
But who is rejected? A pregnant woman and her unborn child! Mary and Unborn Jesus are rejected. The Unborn Christ Child is rejected before He is even born. He shares with hundreds of millions of unborn children through the years, rejection before birth. A sad, unborn solidarity in human rejection. But, of course, baby Jesus had loving parents and was born. The birth occurs in subdued seclusion in a manger with animals, probably some rodents, lots of insects, and so on. Welcome Savior, into our human community.
Tis the Season of ‘The Gospel of Life’
The Journey with Joseph
Setting the flask of water down,
he gave his arm to Mary,
and gently, cautiously,
helped her up.
Then her smile…
for she had remembered…
and now held thoughtfully
the swaddling clothes.
Together they had prepared….
her hands moving deftly to weave them;
he, cutting, plying, sanding wood… a cradle crib.
Now, fastening water flask, a little sack of food
bread, a few figs, he sensed
the sadness of her smile for him; they’d leave
without the crib.
One glance back; he untied the beast of burden,
privileged to carry her, and he began the psalm
“My heart is ready…Lord.”;
their prayer of trust,
their prayer of assurance.
Hoofbeats clicked the rhythmic clod
for God’s prophet had readied them…
Mi- cah; Mi-cah;
Town – of – Da – vid
yet…. was BETHLEHEM prepared?
(Sister M. Linus Coyle PBVM)
Tis the Season of ‘The Gospel of Life’
Mary and Joseph carved by Jacques Bourgault
The prophet Micah had prophesied as to where I would be born. So when the news came that Caesar had called for a worldwide census and my mother and adoptive father realized that we would all have to travel to Bethlehem, they rejoiced, knowing that God’s ancient promises were about to be fulfilled. Here we are on the way to Bethlehem. This was the third long journey my poor mother had to take while pregnant – she had a much harder time of it than I did. (Lk 2:1-5)
We can picture Mary, now in the final trimester of her pregnancy, perhaps working at home or on an errand out in the town center, when she suddenly hears the news ‑ a census decree by Caesar requiring Joseph and her to travel to Bethlehem. A wave of joy and relief breaks upon her soul as she sees God intervening not only in her life, not only in the history of her own people, but with one universal sweep of His Almighty Hand in the history and destiny of the entire world! She is in awe, realizing that yet another prophecy is to be fulfilled ‑ not abstractly or disinterestedly, as some “head count” might be ‑ but intimately in her own life, in her own person and body and family, in the city of David.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in travail has brought forth;
then the rest of his brethren shall return
to the people of Israel. Micah 5:2‑3
The words of this prophecy could now be more fully appreciated by four Israelites; Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah. Particularly the more obscure words ‑ “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” now held a remarkable meaning. God’s Son, eternal like God His “Father”; together their origin reaches back through time, beyond time’s beginning, into some old ancient unknown “days” before days were defined or numbered, before the earth existed. Eternally uncreated! (As the Nicene Creed states: “…eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.”)
Based on her astonishing experiences thus far and those words of the prophet Micah, Mary understood that her pregnancy (and unborn child) was different from all other pregnancies: a constant mystery of faith to her. This pregnancy of her’s had been the subject of prophecy, explained in scripture; angels had come to earth to reveal its holy hidden meanings. Her baby, in some sense existed before King David was conceived, before Abraham was called. As her now unborn child would explain it thirty years hence: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (Jn 8:58) From Unborn Jesus Our Hope
Tis the Season of ‘The Gospel of Life’
Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth and got ready for my birth. Like most parents they prepared their home to receive a new baby but they were also being prepared for the unique mission that God had set before them. As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Mary and Joseph needed to be instructed concerning Christ’s birth before He was born, because it devolved on them to show reverence to the child conceived in the womb, and to serve Him even before He was born.”
“We should like to penetrate into those remaining months, which Mary and Joseph spent together, before the birth of the Holy Child. Scripture is silent about them, but it is not difficult for a sanctified imagination to picture something of what was taking place…
The house at Nazareth was in very deed God’s Sanctuary, containing the Altar of Repose, where the Savior of the world was resting. Angels were in constant adoration before their King. The faithful consisted of Mary and Joseph, whose thought and conversation could be about nothing else but the Child Who was coming into the world. And who shall measure the graces and blessings, which that Child was showering upon Mary and her faithful spouse, during those months of waiting and prayer and holy converse,while they planned and arranged with such care and minuteness, as parents are wont to do, every detail connected with the birth of the firstborn?” Mother St. Paul, Ortus Christi
Tis the Season of ‘The Gospel of Life’
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…And from His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:14,16).
Detail on fresco of Virgin Mary “of the Sign”: she is carrying Jesus in her womb found in The Mezquita of Cordoba, a Roman Catholic cathedral and former mosque, situated in the Andalusian city of Córdoba, Spain.
“I put myself on the side of childhood – on the side of the assassinated child, Abel as well as on the side of the victorious child David; of the child Joseph who reigned in Egypt and of the Hebrew children who sang their joy in a furnace and were subjected to lions and flames. I am above all on the side of the Infant God who promised happiness to the meek.” From The Son of Man by François Mauriac who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1952
“When He came into the world as a tiny unborn baby, Jesus placed Himself squarely “on the side of childhood”. He demonstrated His solidarity with all unborn children, and later with children at every stage of life. Would that all were pledged to be “on the side of childhood” ‑ with the Infant God ‑ throughout all of its many stages, from conception and early life in the mother’s womb to late adolescence when the child prepares to go out on his own. If the world were truly on the side of childhood, we would live in a much more innocent and receptive world.” From Unborn Jesus Our Hope
Tis the Season of ‘The Gospel of Life’
I am now beginning the third trimester of my development in the womb. Here is a 14th or 15th century sculpture discovered in a German Cistercian convent (founded in 1248 A.D.). See how the sculptor emphasized that I was a distinct Person by hollowing out the womb area so devout Christians could see me before birth and have their hearts lifted up in thanksgiving for the mystery of the Incarnation. It’s amazing that people living 600 years ago could demonstrate such profound respect for my prenatal life and yet many people in the 21st century have no respect at all for my life in the womb of my mother.
“What was the essence of His (Christ’s) prayer (during those nine months)? What was it which lay behind all? It was the intention. And what was that? We have meditated on it many times: “Behold I come to do Thy Will O my God.” (Hebrews 10:7)
Naturally there are many different ways of doing that Will, and many different degrees in the perfection with which it is done; and that is why we are quite safe in picturing to ourselves Jesus in the womb of His mother forgetting no single detail; or perhaps a truer picture would be a union with His Father so perfect that there was no need to talk about what was so evident.
Now let us apply this to myself and I will find that instead of being discouraging , it is most encouraging, instead of making my prayers harder it will make them far easier.
What is the intention in my prayers? Is it not to please God and to do His Will? …Now let me see how this works out in practice. I pay a visit to our Lord, perhaps I am too tired to think about Him, I may even sleep in His Presence; perhaps I am so busy that I find it impossible to keep away distracting thoughts…the time is up and I go, thinking, perhaps, what is the good of paying Him a visit like that?
There is great good even in that visit which all the same might have been so much more perfect. What was my intention in paying it? Certainly to please Him. Then I have pleased Him. It was a pleasure to Him to see me come in and sit with Him, even though I was occupied with my own concerns most of the time. We are too much taken up with asking how we say our prayers, but the important question is why do we say them.
To go and sit in His presence because He is lonely or because I am tired and I would rather sit with Him than anyone else is prayer even if I say nothing. What God is doing for me is of far more importance to my soul than what I am doing for God; and all the time that I am there, whether I am thinking of Him or not, He is impressing His image on my soul…”
Mother St. Paul, Ortus Christi, pp 92-93
Filed under: Adoption, Advent, Biblical Reflections, Evangelium Vitae, Unborn Jesus
Tis the Season of ‘The Gospel of Life’
The Dream of St. Joseph (with unborn Christ Child) by Francisco Rizi (1608-1685)
My mother was betrothed to Joseph the carpenter, but he was unsure of what to do about me. Here is a picture of him sleeping and an angel of the Lord explaining everything to him in a dream. You can see my mother and I in the background. Joseph awoke from the dream and adopted me while I was still an unborn baby! (Mt 1:18-25)
In Joseph’s midnight angelic revelation John Paul II sees Joseph’s “personal Annunciation” and the moment of his “Divine election….His place in the history of salvation is defined”. The Pope, continuing his observations, points out that the response of Joseph was exemplary: “’When Joseph woke from sleep ‑ we read in Matthew ‑ he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him’ (Mt 1:24). In these few words there is everything. The whole description of Joseph’s life and the full characteristic of his holiness: ‘He did’. Joseph, the one we know from the Gospel, is a man of action.”
Pope John Paul II, General Audience, March 19, 1980
“In these days of Advent, the liturgy invites us to contemplate in a special way the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who lived with a unique intensity the time of waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. Today, I want to direct our gaze toward the figure of St. Joseph… The one who gives the most importance to the adoptive father of Jesus is the Evangelist Matthew, emphasizing that thanks to him, the Child was legally introduced into the lineage of David fulfilling the Scriptures, in which the Messiah was prophesied as the ’son of David’.”
Pope Benedict, Angelus address, December 18, 2005
It pleased God to bring the beauty of human adoption into the heart of the Incarnation mystery. Adoption is a noble institution and has been a major theme of the Pro-Life message, but it was God’s idea and He relayed it to us. So we can find here another experience of solidarity, that is, a solidarity between God the Father and adoptive parents – His blessing upon their commitment to embrace a little one and, like Joseph, raise the child to the best of their abilities to fullness of life.