Every young mother thinks that her first-born infant is divine; that there has never been another like him. And she’s right on both counts. Every child is a Word-of-God-made-flesh just as surely as Christianity claims that Jesus was, because each child is a bite-sized piece of Source – a soul on safari on planet Earth, a spirit in a spacesuit – with a unique combination of genetics, environment and soul. There has never been another with the exact same mission. No other soul has the precise trajectory or the exact history of incarnations as this newly arrived baby.
Each child is baptized in the waters of the womb.
And the pregnancy isn’t just about developing an embryo that will result in a physical neonate; rather, it is a prolonged initiation rite wherein each child is baptized in the waters of the womb. This is the call to mission. Baptism is not a cutesy ceremony performed some days after the birth – that is simply the ritualizing of what has already occurred – but rather the sealing of the covenant between the soul coming into incarnation and the community in which it is meant to live its mission.
A tribe in West Africa has a custom whereby a pregnant woman in her eight month is sequestered and hypnotized by the elders, who address the child in utero. They believe that the child will use the mother’s voice to answer their two questions which are, “What is your name?” and “What is your mission?” And in many traditions a name is not merely an identity tag to differentiate little Johnny from little Tommy, but is the song the soul sings as it wings its way into incarnation. It is sacred.
As the child is being born, the women of the village dance around the mother and the midwife chanting the baby’s self-revealed name and reminding him of his self-revealed mission.
The vaginal juices…are the holy chrism that confers priesthood on each child.
And that signifies the second sacrament after baptism: that of ordination. The vaginal juices that the baby encounters in the birth canal do not merely boost his immunity to subsequent allergens; rather, these juices are the holy chrism that confers priesthood on each child. This is not the priesthood of presiding over liturgies nor of pastoring a parish. Instead, it is the far deeper priesthood which equips each human to make the ordinary sacred, to see behind the secular into its divine core, to pry open the mundane and discover the mystical within.
As the mother gazes adoringly into the neonate’s eyes, she begins to envisage all kinds of glorious futures for him. In the Christmas event which we have just celebrated, Mary the mother of Jesus did exactly that. As she looked upon her babe and heard what the archetypal visitors – angels, shepherds, magi, Anna and Simeon – had to say about him, she “pondered all these things in her heart.”
It’s just as well that we can’t see into the future – or at least into the near future and the distant future. If we could see into the ultimate future, we would be utterly serene as we rested in the knowledge of our final union with God. However, we typically look with a fierce hope into the face of the newborn and dream of great things he will do and great honors he will receive. Simeon tried to caution Mary during the eight-day-old Jesus’ presentation in the Jerusalem temple. He told her, “Your own soul a sword will pierce so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.” So she pondered some more. If she could have seen 12 years into the future, she would initially have been traumatized when he went missing for three days, but then would have been so proud as she heard him precociously debate the scholars in the temple.
If she could have seen 30 years into the future, her heart would have swelled with pride at his eloquent preaching and brilliant mind and at his compassionate care of the sick and the suffering. But, if she could have seen 33 years into the future, that same heart of hers would have fractured at the ultimate agony of any parent, that of seeing her child die, and die most cruelly, vilified by the self-appointed guardians of law and order – the priests, theologians, economists, politicians and military.
How many other mothers and fathers have been temporarily spared this trauma by their inability to read the future; buffered by love and buoyed up by hope, they say, “yes” to a future that would crush them prophylactically could they but guess it. Instead, resilience is fostered by our being forced to live in the present, even as we dream of the future.
Can you continue to breastfeed the infant 2016 that will surely soil its diaper?
You, too, have just given birth to a brand new year – 2016. Nobody else will live – nor will they be expected to live – this year as you are: you with your unique blend of nature and nurture, of genetics and environment; of previous lifetimes and past incarnations, in the dizzying plethora of former selves; you with a radically unique trajectory that took you, before time had been invented, from the womb of God on the long, difficult journey of culling experiences and harvesting lessons, until you finally return to God’s heart and share your stories at the fireside of Her love.
What will you encounter this year? And how do you want to meet it? Can you continue to breastfeed the infant 2016 that will surely soil its diaper? Can you continue to love the teenaged 2016 as it surely tests the limits of your patience? And when 2016 breathes its last at midnight, December 31st, will you look lovingly into its eyes and whisper, “Say ‘hi’ to God for me.”?
In the Jewish wedding ceremony, the bride circumambulates the groom seven times. Gaia and her star perform the same dance. Mother Earth circumambulates Father Sun over the course of 365 days, birthing a brand new year at the end of each circuit. And she has just recently given birth. An African proverb tells us, “It takes a village to raise a baby.” Well, it takes a global village to raise a baby year.
And just as surely as an individual is divine and has a unique mission so, too, does planet Earth. In a powerful vision many years ago, I saw souls stand in front of God and volunteer for incarnation. One great soul pointed to the third rock from our sun and said, “I will undertake to animate that planet and breed life on it until I give birth to a species that will be capable of recognizing its own divinity and, ipso facto, the divinity of all other creatures.
That is the mission of planet Earth, but her teenage human species is wavering between a breakdown and a breakthrough, between embracing Christ consciousness or a narcissistic greed that might force Gaia to transfer the culmination of her mission to a future species.
Sometimes even a mother’s love is not enough to prevent her child’s suicide. We are cells in that child’s body, perhaps even neurons in it. Can we opt for love, forgiveness and compassion this year and finally break through the fog of war into the sunlight of Source?