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.
The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
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
Image above is mine.