The Stuff and Fluff of Jesus Christ

On the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I posted some thoughts on how the science of microchimerism enhances our belief in Mary’s assumption into heaven.

The blogpost was basically linking to my column at The Catholic Answer, and when I hit that site the other day I noticed lots of action in the combox. Of particular interest was this comment:

When I first learned about the concept of microchimerism, I pondered this too, and I believe in the Assumption. The only thing is that, if they are just some cells remaining with the mother, then also any cells of skin, hair, what have you, that flaked off the Lord’s body as he lived and walked around would also not have seen corruption. So, I don’t know if it would work in a debate-type setting to push this idea.

Another commenter responded:

A good place to look would be Caroline Walker Bynum’s book, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 (Columbia University Press, 1995) — debates over what happens to flaked off skin cells and cut hair and fingernails were a part of many (especially scholastic) discussions of the general resurrection.

Because Catholicism is a reasonable religion, we are permitted our wondering — Gregory of Nyssa said “wonder leads to knowing” — but I confess I have not previously wondered about the skin, hair, and fingernails of Our Lord, previous to this. Even now, it seems like something that is worth a mere shrug. In Psalm 16 we read “For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.” If we take this to reference Christ, then it means that our enormous planet is blessed to have teeny tiny pieces and strands of Christ hiding out amid its sands and caves and waves.

So what? We Catholics believe that the fully and true Flesh, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ Jesus is housed at all times, in every tabernacle throughout the world; why should it matter if some clippable bits are randomly strewn about the earth?

I considered that some might object to that idea; they might argue that random spots on the earth are unfitting receptacles for bits of Divinity. Well, who knows? Perhaps the Holy Places of the world are regarded as holy because we intuit that a bit of the Lord in part of the peat bog or the grotto. As I am willing to chalk it all up to mystery and let God worry about it, I gave the question no further thought until yesterday morning, as I was praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, and the issue popped up as I pondered the Baptism of the Lord.

As much as Christ’s Nativity was “for all the people”, so was his baptism, for in that action was the baptism of the entire planet and everything ever to grow and live and be upon it. The entire earth became opened to the salvific action of Christ, through his baptismal immersion in the water.

We’ve talked about this before in this blog, but think of it. The water in your glass, the water in our oceans, the water you bathe your children in, the water that becomes vapor, collected in the clouds and then delivered back to us in the rain, is the same water than has been here from the very beginning — the very same water spoken of in Genesis, where “God’s spirit moved upon the face of the waters.” With his baptism, God no longer moved upon the face of the water, he was immersed within it — and not thoughtlessly, as a child playing in a river, but God-mindfully; with an intention to save. The whole body of Christ Jesus, intentionally submerged by John (by Christ’s command), enhanced and perhaps exceeded creation; rather than God’s spirit moving upon the face of things, God Incarnate — Emmanu-el — sanctified the water with his very flesh. And the water flowed, and it fed streams and animals and plants, and it rose, and it fell and it renewed the face of the earth in the most mystical of ways, because it was now, and forever more, holy water — literally touched by God, with an intention full of love and mercy. God particles, multiplied into infinity, and all around us, contained in all that grows and flows.

Well, so…if the earth were not already a fitting place for the minuscule dust and fluff Jesus sloughed and clipped away from his human form, his own baptism by the hand of John certainly would have made it so. Every bit of it is holy ground, afterall.

Like I said, I’m just wondering, here. But it’s a pleasant thing to wonder about, of a slow and sunny summer’s day.

Coptic Icon, Baptism if Jesus Public Domain
Coptic Icon, Baptism if Jesus Public Domain

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