Mary’s Assumption Makes Sense in Light of Microchimerism

Whenever my younger son is particularly happy he lets out with a dazzling grin and it always thrills me, because I recognize therein my grandmother’s smile. She died when I was ten years old, but practically at the moment of his birth, I recognized her distinctive mouth and smile in him. I frequently marvel at the fact that I see in him something of a person he never knew, and that in my grandmother, I’d been seeing a feature that likely belonged to some wild Scot that she herself never knew.

Just as our actions ripple outward in ways we do not imagine, so too we physically travel on, in bits and pieces, so far beyond ourselves.

When studying Anatomy and Physiology in college, the lesson that briefly discussed fetomaternal microchimerism, became instructive to me on a different level. Learning that every child leaves within his mother a microscopic bit of himself — and that it remains within her forever — the dogma of the Immaculate Conception instantly became both crystal clear and brilliant to me.

Mary, then, was indeed a tabernacle within which the Divinity did reside — not for a limited time, but for all of her life. Understanding this (and considering how the churches seemed to get it ‘way before microscopes told us anything) the Immaculate Conception made and makes perfect sense: God, who is All-Good is also completely Pure; the vessel in which He resides, then, must be pure, too, or it would not be able to sustain all of that “light in which we see light itself.”

Microchimerism also relates to the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, as well. In the psalms we read “you will not suffer your beloved to undergo corruption.” Christ’s divine body did not undergo corruption. It follows that his mother’s body, which contained a cellular component of the Divinity — and a particle of God is God, entire — would not be allowed to become corrupt, either.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It is that simple, and of course, that complicated. And it brings todays readings for Mass in to sharp focus:

God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.
[...]
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.

And:

The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.

And:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.

So, today, we think of Our Lady in death — for the Orthodox, it is a “Dormition” — and in heaven there is a “mother and child reunion” only a moment away. The Queen stands at the right hand of His Majesty. To us, she says, “do whatever he tells you,” and to him she says, “they have need…” (John 2:1-5)

It’s so beautiful.

And just think, we here on earth contain bits of our mothers, and our mothers contain bits of us; those of us with mothers in heaven have a connection, in a way (in a stardusty, unfathomable, I admit perhaps in a fanciful way) to that Eternity, too, for they are in us and we are in them. Or, if our mothers are still alive, our grandmothers are there, and in a way then, we are too — they carry bits of our mothers, as do we.

We ripple; we travel on, so far beyond ourselves, but already we are in Eternity. Already we behold the beatific vision, if we care to see. Welcome, we might say, to Eternal Life, today.

I wonder — does knowing we are already in eternity give us strength and fortitude to live fearlessly for Christ, through him, with him, in him, no matter if it should take us even toward the difficult paths of sainthood or martyrdom?

This relates heavily to our need to partake of frequent reconciliation, too, if our participation in the Eucharist is to be both respectful and fully efficacious in the imparting of the sacrament’s own graces. We owe to God our best efforts to “clean the place up” before welcoming him into our own physicality, which is a physicality already, microscopically, stardustfully, turned toward him.

It also relates to the truth that we are free; it relates to “do not be afraid”. We cannot be in the presence of the King and still fear.

Happy Feast of the Assumption. Glad day of Dormition! Remember who you are, claimed for Christ and already before him! In light of that, why do we ever allow ourselves to be distracted by the daily illusions and empty promises before us in the world?

“The genuine significance of Catholic devotion to Mary is to be seen in the light of the Incarnation itself. The Church cannot separate the Son and the Mother. Because the Church conceived of the Incarnation as God’s descent into flesh and into time, and His great gift of Himself to His creatures, she also believes that the one who was closest to Him in this great mystery was the one who participated most perfectly in the gift. When a room is heated by an open flame, surely there is nothing strange in the fact that those who stand closest to the fireplace are the ones who are warmest. And when God comes into the world through the instrumentality of one of His servants, then there is nothing surprising about the fact that His chosen instrument should have the greatest and most intimate share in the divine gift.” — Thomas Merton

Deacon Greg has his homily, here

Joanne McPortland, as only she can, gives us thoughts on the Assumption and Helen Gurley Brown

Kathy Schiffer with a bit of beautiful trivia

UPDATE:
Seems we’re all thinking a little outside the box today. Rebecca Hamilton on the Assumption and Our Lady in the Age of Genocide.

Kathryn Jean Lopez throws Bill Buckley into the mix

Katrina Fernandez
has a potpourri of Assumption stuff!

Oddly related: Advent Pictures of Christ, the Firstborn

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://www.bede.org Stefanie

    Oh, I LOVE finding out that my children are in me still. What a wonderful thing!

  • Michael

    Thank you for your beautiful words and reflections. I needed to hear this to day….I believe you were an answer to my prayer. God Bless you.

  • LisaB

    Beautiful!
    I love the Christian imagery that Paul Simon’s song “Mother and Child Reunion” brings to mind:

    “No I wopuld not give you false hope
    On this strange and mournful day…”

  • CherylD

    I never understood this veneration of Mary. She was Jesus’s mother that was it. There is only one God. No disrespect intended.

    [Well, none taken, but if you don't understand it, perhaps you should challenge yourself to find out why Catholics and Orthodox Christians venerate Mary (and you are right that it is veneration, not worship, so you're on the right track.) Ponder the words "She was Jesus' mother." Nothing remarkable about that -- we all have mothers -- but Jesus is God. Ponder her motherhood in light of that! I think you'll find it fascinating once you start really thinking about it rather than shrugging it off. -admin]

  • http://www.postabortionwalk.blogspot.com InfiniteGrace

    I think about this concept a lot and in the context of being postabortive. My lost child although in heaven – still resides in me here. What comfort for all those who are postabortive and for those who have lost a child to miscarriage. A part of them remains forever. “Nothing is definitively lost.”

  • Nicky

    Beautiful…What about adopted children?

  • Victor

    (((we all have mothers — but Jesus is God.)))

    I’ve always taught about that while playing as a child with my Protestant good friends after I learned while serving high mass that their religion did not consider Mary, (the true mother of god) very special. Believe “IT” or not, I’ve always kept my thoughts a secret from them because I always believed that “IT” was not really their fault and still do.

    For those who might know salvage,

    http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester/2012/07/mass-roulette/#comments

    he, she and whatever, who like sinner vic believes in dividing and then conquering with his alien friends who pretend they are us but in spiritual reality, they are not us who are born again and believe in “Christ” but in spiritual reality, they are actually U>S (usual sinners). I know “IT” is hard to understand butt don’t take my word for “IT”, just check out the movies made on “IT”! :)

    I hear ya Anchoress! Hey folks, Victor’s back! :( :)

    Peace

  • LizEst

    …and Happy Mother’s Day to the Costa Rican mothers and those in Antwerp, Belgium

  • http://www.thecatholicbeat@gmail.com Gail Finke

    I almost didn’t read this article because I sometimes get a little impatient at people’s attempts to scientifically investigate Christ’s conception and birth. I guess in that way I’m more like the Orthodox — leave it a mystery and stop trying to figure it out already! But I’m glad I read this, it’s a very beautiful and mysterious reflection.

    CherylD: I highly recommend Elizabeth’s kind advice. At one point I didn’t “get” the whole Mary thing either, and some of what I thought I understood was wrong. It took some hard-won humility on my part to listen to what people were saying before I really began to understand veneration of Mary, and I am still only beginning to understand it. Of course there are some superstitious beliefs about Mary, but human beings get superstitous beliefs about everything — that is just human nature, not anythign to do with Mary. It it is really very beautiful and very much about God. We venerate Mary because of what God did in and with her. God transforms people, and the conception, birth, and raising of God Himself OUGHT to have transformed her, don’t you think? If loving Christ transforms us, what would that kind of love do to even a regular woman, much less one especially favored by God? My first real inkling of what Catholics understand about Mary came from an out-of-print children’s book by Fulton Sheen, which I really wish I owned, and then my next big clue came from (of all people) Fr. Andrew Greeley. Mary wasn’t just any old person who happened to wake up one day with Jesus inside her and pop him out like a toaster.

  • Deacon Peter Trahan

    Your blog post is a bit confusing. Yes, I do understand the “big” word microchimerism, but I don’t see how it relates to the Immaculate Conception. It is true that the Assumption is directly related and a result of the Immaculate conception, but I can assure you from a theological stance, it does not relate to microchimerism. For the sake of review, the Immaculate conception is the dogma that Mary was conceived without Original Sin. One of the results of Original Sin is corruption of the body (if you eat of the forbidden tree you surely will die) (they ate, therefore, they will not be allowed to eat from the Tree of Life) etc. etc.

    We are too eager to have science prove our faith, and that is not where we should go for the truth. In all this rhetoric about faith and reason, faith and culture, etc. we are always bemoaning the positivists (and rightly so) who say that only that which can be experientially proven, scientifically proven is true. If we need biology to make our faith “crystal clear” we are joining the positivists. I’m sure they will welcome you but I don’t think they would agree with your “experiment.”

    Jesus may have left a “microscopic bit of himself” in Mary (it was a human birth,) but our faith says that she was Immaculate from the moment she was conceived in the mind of God. Mary was not chosen to be the mother of God, she was created to be the mother of God, and in her creation all the necessary elements were included by God.

    Here’s a reminder: God does not react to biology, biology reacts to God

    [I am not at all "eager to have science prove the faith" -- I like mystery. I suspect you're not a regular reader of the blog so you might not know that. I'm also not trying to show off with a "big word" if that's what you're getting at. I'm sorry my point about microchemirism as relates to the Immaculate Conception is not clear. I only meant that learning about microchemirism brought it all home for me, in that that it made Christ's cellular reality and Mary's pristine state "sensible" in a way it had not always seemed before, and for that matter, supported her perpetual virginity, too. Recall, I was in college at the time. Some of us have come by our faith honestly, but slowly, and these little gleanings have helped. Thank you for your kind response. - admin]

  • ahem

    Dear CherylD:

    Mary is first among the saints, an exemplar of unquestioning human obedience to God.

    “She who is higher than the heavens and more glorious than the Cherubim, she who is held in greater honour than all creation, she who by reason of her surpassing purity became the vessel of the everlasting Essence, today commendeth her most pure soul into the hands of her Son.

    With her all things are filled with joy, and she bestoweth great mercy on us.”

  • Joan H.

    I’m not sure when I figured out the “sense” of Mary’s perpetual virginity and Assumption, but the succinct way I’ve come to explain it whenever it comes up now is this: A tabernacle is not a breadbox. This is the first time I can remember ever seeing anyone else refer to Mary as a tabernacle (even though I’m sure it is (must be?!) common), because, of course, she is. I think this profound realization is so simple that many people dismiss it.

    “Already we are in Eternity.” Yes! Thank you for this beautiful meditation today.


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