Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus was an Embryonic Person
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Tomorrow we commemorate the Nativity of the Lord. Let us always remember the incredible truth revealed in the Mystery which we celebrate, there was a Redeemer in the Womb. The Incarnate Word became one of us, at every stage. In fact, Jesus was an "embryonic person", to use the salient phrase taken from this newest Vatican document, and is forever identified with all embryonic persons.
The Platytera "she who is more spacious then the heavens". Depicts Jesus in the womb of the Virgin.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - It is the day before Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. As we prepare to celebrate the Birth of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, I am drawn to reflect with my readers on the fullness of the mystery of the Incarnation.
From the moment Mary said "Yes", the Incarnation began. This is vitally important to remember. Often the word Nativity and the word Incarnation are used interchangeably. Certainly, the Nativity is a part of the great mystery of the Incarnation. However, the Incarnation began with the conception of Jesus and continues.
The beloved disciple John begins His Gospel calling us to reflect on this extraordinary truth: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:1-4)
From the very moment Jesus became Incarnate, His saving mission of redeeming and re-creating began. The Incarnation is the very heart of the Mystery of the entire Christian Faith. The God, who made the whole universe and created man out of the dust of the earth, took on our humanity. He lived in the first home of every human person, His mother's womb.
There was a Redeemer in the womb of Mary! God was an embryonic human person, a fetus, a child in the womb. Of course, that Person, from the moment of conception, as the Ancient Christian Creeds affirm, was - and is - True God and True Man.
In the light of this mystery every human pregnancy, every womb, every child in the womb, was forever elevated beyond the dignity it already possessed. Also, the extreme evil of abortion is made even more obvious and profane. This Redeemer in the womb, Jesus, began His saving work "in utero" and He identifies with every child in the womb. Jesus was an "embryonic person" and is forever identified with all embryonic persons.
On September 8, 2008, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Vatican Congregation responsible for the protection of Doctrine (The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith) released a passionate defense of the dignity of every single human life from the moment of conception until natural death.
As is the custom with magisterial documents, the title of this instruction was taken from the first line, "The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death". The document continues, "This fundamental principle expresses a great "yes" to human life and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research, which has an ever greater importance in today's world."
At the release of the document the Press was filled with reports on the instruction. Some accurately described the content and properly affirmed its significance. Others were based on mistaken caricatures of the Catholic Church and not on the substance of what the teaching document actually presented.
Still others demonstrated that the writers did not read the document or, if they did, did not like what it had to say and actually chose to mislead the public. Finally, some were based on old tired assertions of the Catholic Church as being "out of touch" or "anti-technology" or "anti-sexuality" or any number of other absolutely untrue and groundless assertions.
The Instruction continued the clear and consistent defense of the dignity of every human life, respect for the goods and ends of marriage and the insistence on having authentic moral criteria with which to evaluate alleged advances in medical science as presented by the Catholic Church through her teaching office.
The Catholic Church is not against science. Rather, she simply insists that good science must always respect the first goods; life, marriage and the common good of our life together.
All Catholic Christians should read this well written teaching document. It is a doctrinal statement of the ordinary magisterium (teaching office) of the Catholic Church and therefore must be given the full assent of our intellect and will. This is of particular importance given the number of Catholics in significant positions of authority in the Obama Administration.
I encourage Vice President Biden and his fellow professing Catholics in the US administration to read this instruction. I hope it draws those who need to do so, to repent and embrace the truth.
Finally, the document was written not only for Catholics, other Christians or even just people of faith. It is addressed to "all who seek the truth". It presents the truth by drawing upon the "light both of reason and faith and seeks to set forth an integral vision of man and his vocation".
The document does not discourage progress in bio-medicine. In fact it encourages it within an ethical framework, one which accepts that science must always be placed at the service of the human person, the family and the common good. Any use of the so called "new technologies" must also respect that the human body is never an "it" - but an "I" - some-one who must never be treated as an object:
"The body of a human being, from the very first stages of its existence, can never be reduced merely to a group of cells. The embryonic human body develops progressively according to a well defined program with its proper finality, as is apparent in the birth of every baby."
The insistence upon this framework for evaluating bio-medicine finds support in the history of other true advances in Medical Science. The ethical criterion is revealed in the Natural Law; the fundamental right to life and the dignity of human persons. This right is knowable by and binding upon all men and women and is not simply a "religious" construct.
Footnote 7 within the document cites Pope Benedict XVI's presentation to the United Nations in April of 2008 which summarizes this point well: "Human rights.in particular the right to life of every human being "are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations. Removing human rights from this context would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks. This great variety of viewpoints must not be allowed to obscure the fact that not only rights are universal, but so too is the human person, the subject of those rights"
It is in light of this fundamental moral criterion that the instruction discusses human sexuality and marital love, procreation and infertility treatments and the "manipulation of the embryo or the human Genetic Patrimony". The section concerning gene therapy and the therapeutic use of stem cells, distinguishing both the types of cells and the techniques used to obtain them, is one of the best explanations of the complex technologies which I have read.
The Catholic Church encourages the use of adult stem cells and stem cells which can be derived from non-lethal uses such as fetal cord blood. These technologies do not take human embryonic lives and have also been the subject of amazing scientific progress. I am deeply grateful for the Catholic Church, Defender and Champion of Life. No matter how many efforts there are to dismiss Catholic teaching in this fundamental area of ethics, the opponents of the truth which she defends will not prevail because her teaching is true, it is never right to take innocent human life.
To conclude with some words from the Instruction: "Just as a century ago it was the working classes which were oppressed in their fundamental rights, and the Church courageously came to their defense by proclaiming the sacrosanct rights of the worker as person, so now, when another category of persons is being oppressed in the fundamental right to life, the Church feels in duty bound to speak out with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice. Hers is always the evangelical cry in defense of the world's poor, those who are threatened and despised and whose human rights are violated".
"In virtue of the Church's doctrinal and pastoral mission, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has felt obliged to reiterate both the dignity and the fundamental and inalienable rights of every human being, including those in the initial stages of their existence, and to state explicitly the need for protection and respect which this dignity requires of everyone.
"The fulfillment of this duty implies courageous opposition to all those practices which result in grave and unjust discrimination against unborn human beings, who have the dignity of a person, created like others in the image of God. Behind every "no" in the difficult task of discerning between good and evil, there shines a great "yes" to the recognition of the dignity and inalienable value of every single and unique human being called into existence."
"The Christian faithful will commit themselves to the energetic promotion of a new culture of life by receiving the contents of this Instruction with the religious assent of their spirit, knowing that God always gives the grace necessary to observe his commandments and that, in every human being, above all in the least among us, one meets Christ himself (cf. Mt 25:40). In addition, all persons of good will, in particular physicians and researchers open to dialogue and desirous of knowing what is true, will understand and agree with these principles and judgments, which seek to safeguard the vulnerable condition of human beings in the first stages of life and to promote a more human civilization."
Tomorrow weÂ commemorate the Nativity of the Lord. Let us always remember the incredible truth revealed in the Mystery which we celebrate, there was a Redeemer in the Womb. The Incarnate Word became one of us, at every stage. In fact, Jesus was an "embryonic person", to use the salient phrase taken from this newest Vatican document, and is forever identified with all embryonic persons.
Solidarity begins in the womb. Jesus shows us the way. He is identifies with every child in every womb. The Child Jesus in the womb reminds us that every child in the womb is our neighbor.Â As we celebrate His Birth, let us rededicate ourselves to ending the horror of every procured abortion.
Deacon Keith A. Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate who served as the first and founding Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice in the nineteen nineties. He has long been active at the intersection of faith and culture and currently serves as Special Counsel to Liberty Counsel. He is also the Editor in Chief of Catholic Online.
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