Tag Archives: Womb

The Cross and the Beatitudes

10th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday (Year I)

2 Corinthians 1:1-7; Matthew 5:1-12

A single teardrop from God could wash away the sins of the world, but the Father gave his only-begotten Son to the last drop of blood.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Our “Father of compassion” (2 Corinthians 1:3) is moved like a mother in the depths of her womb for her children. The Greek word for compassion (oiktirmos) translates the Hebrew word rachamim (from racham) in the Greek Septuagint, which means womb, tender love, mercy, and pity.1 God the Father sent the Son of his Eternal Womb into the womb of the Virgin Mother and Earth for the love of the world.

Our Father is also the “God of all encouragement” or “comfort” (paraklésis), a word that evokes the Holy Spirit, Comforter, and Paraclete (paraklétos).

Our Father who sent his Son and Spirit into the world is indeed a God of compassion and comfort, taking humans by surprise. 

Why not a God of sophia (wisdom) in the heights of heaven, an object of pure contemplation beyond human reach and relationship, to satisfy the Greeks?

Why not a God of power and authority, who would overthrow the Romans and enthrone the triumphant Messiah, to satisfy the Jews?

The plan of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit upset both reason and religion in the course of human history (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). The sufferings of Christ shattered all human expectations. What are philosophers and worshippers to do with a crucified God?  

St. Paul considered the “scandal” and “foolishness” of the Cross to be his greatest treasure. What all humans avoid, the apostle embraced to “overflowing” (2 Corinthians 1:5). St. Paul found true wisdom and power in the self-negation of the Cross.

Jesus transformed the curse of suffering and death into the blessing of eternal life. The Beatitudes from his Sermon on the Mount, full of paradoxes, are a roadmap to the fullness of life in God.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. 
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12

The earthy God of the Cross and the Beatitudes shed tears and blood for us. Ever new and strange, the Gospel never ceases to challenge the human heart.

-GMC

1 An example of this Hebrew idea translated into Greek can be found in 1 Kings 8:50 (Hebrew, Greek). 

Born of God

Jesus and Nicodemus, Providence Lithograph Company (1904)

Monday of the Second Week of Easter

John 3:1-8

In the dark of night, Nicodemus secretly sought out Jesus to obtain the light of truth. He risked his reputation among the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin if he was caught consulting Israel’s most wanted. 

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.”

John 3:2

The gentle voice of truth in the heart managed to gain a hearing in Nicodemus above the internal and external din of mob pressure and conformity. Humility and courage opened his eyes to see the hand of God in Jesus’ signs among the people.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

John 3:3

A new seed, a new birth, a complete regeneration of our nature in divine grace was called for by Jesus. Anóthen (ἄνωθεν), “from above,”  “from the origin,” or “again” and “anew” hearkens to a beginningless beginning—God himself (John 1:12-13). The water and Spirit of the original and eternal Womb of God the Father beckons humanity and the cosmos back to its origin (bereshit, the opening word of the Torah in Genesis 1:1, “in the beginning”). 

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”

John 3:4

Nicodemus, listening with the ears of flesh (sarx) and not the spirit (pneuma), interpreted Jesus’ words on the empirical plane alone. Once born from the maternal womb, who can be born “again”?

Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.

John 3:5-6

Flesh and spirit, Adam and the cosmos, were created to be one in the beginning. The sin of division and war among the elements characterizes the landscape of reality post-Eden. John’s Prologue introduces a new beginning, a new bereshit in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

John 1:1-2

The new Adam is anóthen, born “from above,” the Son of God who has integrated spirit and flesh, humanity and the cosmos, Jew and Gentile, and male and female in his own person. A new beginning calls for a new birth, the fulfillment of the cosmic cleansing of Noah’s flood. 

Christ, the ark of salvation, leads all creation ashore the Promised Land in his Body through “water and Spirit.” At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river, the Father declared the divine Sonship of Christ to all the world: 

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:11; Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22

Words, images, symbols and reality in Genesis 1:2 and John 3:5 come together in the lives of real persons transformed by Christ in the Holy Spirit.

Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:7-8

Are the children of God evanescent and hard to pin down, like the wind? Jesus’ description sounds rather ghostlike. The risen Christ himself models the enigmatic and poetic description of persons “born of the Spirit.” Like a ghost, Jesus appeared and disappeared, and moved through solid walls and doors in his risen flesh. At the same time, he invited his disciples to touch his body and realize that he was not a ghost:

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

Luke 24:36-43

Two millennia after the resurrection, the words and actions of Jesus in the Gospels continue to stretch human faith and imagination. Saints past and present, starting with the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Mary Magdalene, the holy women, and the disciples testify that Christ is truly risen. He is risen indeed!

-GMC

Children of One Womb

Icon of the Theotokos

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)

Hebrews 2:14-18

Out of the womb I have begotten you before the morning star.

Psalm 110:3 (Interpreted by St. Athanasius, Deposition of Arius 3)

He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers.”

Hebrews 2:11

All men are my brothers from the same womb, all things my companions.1

Zhang Zai (Chang Tsai, 1020-1077)

Jesus Christ fulfilled the highest intuition of the sages that we are all family. Without departing the eternal Womb of the Father, the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary into our world to gather all people to himself. 

The God-man’s paternal and maternal origins resonate with the natural philosophy of Neo-Confucianist philosopher Zhang Zai who called Heaven “Father” and Earth “Mother.” Heaven and Earth constitute the whole of reality, the Universe which is fundamentally loving, nurturing, and benevolent. Zhang Zai was influenced by the ancient cosmology of China which characterized the Tao (“Way,” universal principle, Logos) as a mother. The Tao is gentle, kind, merciful, yielding, and sacrificial.

Although the book of Hebrews, full of references to Israelite temple worship, priesthood, and  customs sounds very foreign to cultures of the East, the extraordinary humility and love of Christ strike a deep chord.

Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Hebrews 2:14-18

Christ is the perfect icon of the Tao made flesh:

Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water
Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong
This is because nothing can replace it

That the weak overcomes the strong
And the soft overcomes the hard
Everybody in the world knows
But cannot put into practice

Therefore, sages say:
The one who accepts the humiliation of the state
Is called its master
The one who accepts the misfortune of the state
Becomes king of the world
The truth seems like the opposite 

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 78 (translated by Derek Lin)

The “king of the world,” crowned with the “glory and honor” of his sacrificial death on the Cross (Hebrews 2:9), is our gateway to union and communion.

Heaven, earth, and all human persons are called to oneness in the Womb of the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.

-GMC

1 Fung Yu-Lan, The Spirit of Chinese Philosophy, trans. E. R. Hughes (Boston: Beacon Press, 1947), 175.

The Immaculate Conception and the Trinity

St. Bernadette Soubirous and Our Lady of Lourdes

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

John 14:9

Jesus’ response to Philip’s request at the Last Supper, “Show us the Father,” is packed with infinite mystery and depth. To know Christ Jesus is to enter into the presence of God the Father in whom the monad of divinity and the triad of hypostasity (unique personhood) are simultaneous and interpenetrating.

As the unique God-man and mediator Jesus Christ, the Son also ushers us into the heart of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who revealed the secret of her identity to St. Bernadette Soubirous, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This took place on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1858, at the Lourdes grotto in France.

The Son received his divinity from his Father and his humanity from his mother—Immaculate Son from Immaculate Virgin. The Father is the Virgin unbegotten and unconceived; Mary is the Virgin begotten and conceived in the mind of the Father from “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). The Incarnate Logos in the Father’s eternal plan is inseparable from the Theotokos, for the God-man has no existence as God-man apart from the Virgin Mother. Jesus Christ is the Son of God subsisting in two natures, divine and human.

The Son of God assumed humanity anew at the Annunciation, for without Mary’s consent, the Incarnation would not have taken place. Human nature had to be received, for “the holy Body of Christ” was not “brought from heaven” but bestowed by the generosity of the Virgin Mother, wrote St. Cyril of Alexandria in a letter that was read at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.1

Mary’s role is not “necessary” in the way that the Son is essentially begotten of the Father primordially, but she was conceived from before all ages to play a pivotal role in salvation history.

The Father shaped the Son in the Mother and the Mother in the Son as one Immaculate Conception by the Holy Spirit who “proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26). Ultimately, the Immaculate Conception returns to the Father as Source and Fountainhead of persons.

Mary Immaculata and her Son, Emmanuel, are the staircase and ladder of Jacob ascending and descending between heaven and earth (Genesis 28:10-19). The Theotokos is the door and gate for the earthly missions of the Son and Spirit from the Father, from whose womb poured forth the deifying grace of the Most Holy Trinity. 

“The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity.”2 Our return to the Womb of the Immaculate Virgin Father passes through the womb of the Immaculate Virgin Mother: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). 

-GMC

1 Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451).

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church 260.

Children of the Father

Mosaic of the Sermon on the Mount (Ravenna, Italy)

23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday (Year II)

Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.”

The Father sent his Son into the world to transform it by union with himself, energizing the very dust of the cosmos with the breath of the Holy Spirit. The second person of the Trinity became an individual among individuals to lead us beyond the empirical boundaries of individuation to the authentic freedom of personhood. 

Christ’s forgiveness of his enemies from the Cross tore down dividing walls and invited reconciliation with himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Love overcame the fear of death, for other persons were his very life. Jesus’ whole being cried out for the restoration of a divided, ego-centered humanity. 

The permeable communion of persons in communion infinitely surpasses the society of bounded egos. One’s own good and the good of others is one and the same good. Persons conceived in the Womb of the Father are selfless like himself and good “to the bone.” When we see other persons as one with us in the same Immaculate Womb, “enemies” become children of the Father. 

The Holy Spirit alone can divinize our nature so that love becomes first nature and first impulse. Confidence in the Holy Spirit’s transforming power is a first step to cooperating with divine grace.

-GMC