Christmas Poem: Conception

In endless absence, Presence spoke a whispered Word, and Love awoke.

The Word, unheard in any tongue, created all: The stars were hung;

The earth and waters teemed with life—the man woke singing to his wife.

In love the cosmos had its start, and at its core: a flaming Heart.

In perfect rhythm dwelt our kin until in pride they chose to sin

And, grasping godhood, fell from grace, condemning all the human race.

 

When in God’s time the angel spoke his gentle ave, Hope awoke

Inside Maria’s sinless breast—and grew with her obedient yes.

The Holy Spirit took a wife; her virgin womb then bloomed with Life.

Her fiat was Salvation’s start, and in His chest: a flaming Heart.

It beats though punctured by our pride, and new life gushes from His side,

Restoring mankind to God’s grace, for He has suffered in our place.

 

So to my knees I fall and pray: How shall I conceive Christ today,

Like that heroic holy girl, and bear Him to a waiting world?

 

Blogger’s Note: My Christmas poem is a few weeks late, due to an unusually eventful (and fruitful!) December. Check out past Christmas poems and other related writings!

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. Continue reading

Book Break: In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall

One of the many things I meant to do in the past year was to explore and review several books on the Catholic view of creation and evolution, in order to help parish parents and grandparents answer their questions on the topic and those of their children. My hope was to find a book or two that might be helpful to inquiring minds of all ages.

As usual, I bit off more than I could possibly chew and have completed only one such book. On a positive note, it was excellent.

‘In the Beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall is an edited compilation of four Lenten homilies given by Pope Benedict XVI in 1981, when he was still Joseph Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich and Freising. His goal was to develop a catechesis of Creation for adults. The four homilies build, one upon the other, to present a clear case for what the Genesis accounts of Creation and the Fall mean and why they continue to matter:

  • The first homily, “God the Creator,” lays out the so-called conflict between the Creation account(s) and science, and discusses how and why we interpret scripture the way we do: in the context of Jesus, to whom the entirety of scripture, written over the course of centuries, points.
  • The second homily, “The Meaning of the Biblical Creation Accounts,” addresses the Creation story specifically, the reasonableness of belief in Creation, the ways in which science points to Creation, the sabbath structure and rhythm of Creation — and the emergence of the view that humanity is at conflict with nature.
  • In the third homily, “The Creation of the Human Being,” Pope Benedict focuses on the heart of the matter for many modern Catholics: where humans come from. He explains that Genesis has more to do with who we are (imago Dei, or image of God) than how we got here, then tackles evolutionary theory directly — what it can explain about our existence, and what it can’t.
  • In the fourth homily, “Sin and Salvation,” Pope Benedict discusses the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the plan for salvation, with Christ as the new Adam. In perhaps the most profound explanation for me personally, he clearly lays out why, because we are creatures created by God, obedience to God’s law is not a restriction of freedom (like we often perceive it) — we are made for this, and thrive under God’s law because it’s in our nature!
The entire book is exactly 100 pages, including the Appendix, entitled “The Consequences of Faith in Creation, which reads like a fifth homily on how we got to the point that, since the Renaissance, understanding of and belief in Creation theology has diminished to the point that it is rarely spoken of in modern Catholicism, and why our fundamental “creatureliness” is essential to our future. Pope Benedict’s style is straightforward and clear; he is obviously well-read and -researched on this topic, but makes it accessible to (though not always easy for) the patient reader. The book is less specifically about evolution that I imagined, but rewarding and worth the time. It’s fun to imagine these as homilies, sitting in the pews, wishing someone was writing all this down.