From Conception

This was my first morning in the Adoration Chapel at my new hour, Saturdays at 5 a.m. It was as I hoped: a beautiful way to regroup—to end a week, start the weekend, and consecrate the days ahead to God.

While praying the Rosary, a thought struck me that hadn’t before. I was praying the Third Joyful Mystery—the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus is how I spontaneously phrased it this morning—and it occurred to me in that moment that Jesus, at His conception, was an embryo, was He not? Perhaps not a zygote, which is specifically a fertilized egg; that is part of the great mystery of Mary’s virgin pregnancy. But an embryo, surely.

We often reflect on God’s great love and humility, that He would willingly condescend to become, not just a man, but a vulnerable, wriggling infant. But more astounding than that, He became what’s today’s culture wants to call “tissue,” a tiny cluster of cells like those pictured above, alive and human, but utterly helpless without Our Blessed Mother’s bodily protection and sustenance.

Sometime in the past week I ran across a quote, which I cannot relocate, by a saint who argued that no part of our humanity is saved without Jesus having taken it upon Himself. (If you can help me rediscover this quote, please comment below!) So God Himself assures us that life is sacred from conception because He chose to be conceived: to place the entirety of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—the infinite God of the Universe!—into so small a droplet of humanity, awash in a sea of maternal loving care.

I finished the Rosary and jotted these thoughts down, then turned to the day’s Scripture readings. Unbeknownst to me, the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles, is upon us, and I was particularly struck by the first reading:

Brothers and sisters: You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. — Ephesians 2:19-22

Some of you may know that several years ago we lost a child to miscarriage. It happened early in the pregnancy; not knowing whether our little one was a son or daughter, we named our child Jude. (We since have reason to believe our Jude was a girl.) So the Feast of St. Jude is a significant day, and that reading from Ephesians resonates with me today on many levels.

For Catholics, a holy marriage images the Holy Trinity—a loving, life-giving communion of persons: a husband, a wife, and God willing, a child. Christ’s own humble conception and existence as an embryo assures me that Jude was, in fact, a person sacred and loved by God. Her death with no stain of committed sin leads me to believe she is, in fact, no longer a stranger and sojourner, but a fellow citizen with the holy ones and members of the household of God.

And since she is a third person, if you will, of Jodi’s and my loving communion, I have great hope that, through Jesus, “the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him [we] also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

* * * * *

My Lord and my God, what trust you placed in your handmaid! How small You make Yourself that we may approach you without fear! May we imitate you fully, diminishing ourselves in total trust and absolute humility. Little Jude, pray for us. Amen.

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