Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday: The Awesome Human Creation

Today, I strongly encourage the reading from the II Maccabees book from the Old Testament used in today's liturgy. It was composed around the end of the second century before Christ. So it is significantly ancient! This particular "story" should impact every adult human being that ever asks, "Where did I come from?"

The particular account reports admirably about an unnamed mother who "saw her seven sons perish in one day" (v. 20). The words ascribed to the mother whose heart was "fill with a noble spirit" (v. 21), present a courageous mother who encouraged her sons to remain true to "the law given to our fathers through Moses" (v. 30) -- i. e. not to eat pork. The king, Antiochus, had ordered the arrest of the seven sons and mother because they refused to break the law, to eat pork. It was the kings way of attempting to break down the Jewish religious practice.

This particular section of the OT writing also prsents an extraordinary account of a seven-times mother's understanding of the truly almost unbelievable experience of pregnancy. As one Benedictine monk, Wilfred Theisen, himself a physicist, wrote "In fact, when we reflect on all of the miracles that Jesus worked, even raising Lazarus from the dead, we must conclude that pregnancy is a greater wonder than any of our Lord's miracles."

The mother's words, you would suspect, were composed by someone in whom there was embedded a genuine spiritual cosmology. The mother's words present a woman's view of the creation of a child in a mother's womb: "nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed" (v. 22). Further, she adds, "... it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man's beginning ... " (v.23).

In short, then, the words should bring any reader to pause in wonder adn genuine awe at his or her own very being. How did I get here? How was it that two of the smallest biological elements came together and made me, made you? This brave mother's words "... it was not I who gave you the breath of live ..." (v. 22) should strengthen our own respect for every pregnant woman. She is not simply another woman with a protruding stomach. Within her very body, the expecting mother makes ready, with the power of God, to give the world not simply a biological wonder but indeed a human being created by God. A pregnant woman is a sacred being: she is truly a very special temple, carrying within her "a greater wonder than any of our Lord's miracles."

And the newborn pictured above? Let the proud uncle share with you my nephew Joey's firstborn just minutes after arriving among us in August.