Christmas Cycle

One Christmas Eve, after placing a small figure of baby Jesus in its resin manger at our house, my then 4 or 5-year-old nephew asked, “But… is he… alive?”  So much was said in his look of perplexity and disbelief – If Christmas is Jesus’s birthday, then where is he?  Shouldn’t he be growing up by now?  Also… if he was born 2000 years ago… then, maybe he should be dead – right?  Then why do we act like he’s a little newborn baby?  What is this weirdness???

Nativity scene, Christmas, Jesus in manger

Of course, there is something to be said about the Eternal Now, as well as our preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord – but that something is said in other places, I’m sure, with more scholarly expertise.  What I want to reflect upon in this post is the beauty and power of the newness of our celebrations – every single year. Continue reading

A Time to Sing: 5 Month Fetus

When you were this age, you, too, looked a lot like this picture![1] Baby at five months in the womb

With your eyebrows nearly complete on your little face, the hair on your scalp was beginning to grow. All of your skin layers and hair follicles were present, ready to sprout. You also had all of your glands by this age and your skin began to be covered in a creamy white substance, called vernix, to protect its new stage from the amniotic fluid until just before birth. Your mother’s body was beginning to grow and show her pregnancy, midway through, as she felt you move about more often.

After just five months in the womb, you had developed a pattern of movement, heart rate, and breathing activity that followed daily cycles. Called circadian rhythms, these cycles continue to be part of your biological life. Small, hidden, and utterly dependent as you were, you followed the laws of life… a time to wake and a time to sleep, a time to exercise and a time to rest, a time to listen and a time to speak… For, as we know, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….”[2]

A time to listen and a time to speak?  Yes!

Sound became part of your life experience. Your cochlea, in your inner ear, was fully developed and you were already responding to a variety of noises. You were continually surrounded by the sound of your mother’s heartbeat, as well as her digestive system, and the swishing noises of fluid in the womb. Loud noises beyond the womb startled you. But even gentle, sweet, and melodic sounds coming from the world outside could be detected by you, as little as you were, and change your heart rate and movements. Repeated sounds that you heard in the womb started to become familiar to you – like your mother’s voice, lullabies, and the cadence of a particular story – and continued to sooth you after birth… as they can still comfort you even now.

Also, at this age, amazingly, you began efforts to make your own verbal sounds! Ultrasound imaging shows movement within the voice box of an 18-week-old fetus that are distinctly similar to those required for speaking. Think of it… when you were no bigger than a cantaloupe, your Creator began to draw sound from out of your mouth, there in the watery world of your first forming. “He has put a new song in my mouth – praise to our God”![3]

 © 2016 Christina Chase

originally posted on my parish’s website http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources for the science – see:

The Endowment for Human Development, https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit14.php

Web M.D., http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-17-20


[1] http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

[2] Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

[3] Psalms 40:3 (NKJV)

What the Assumption Teaches about the Human Person

Do you see this person as beautiful?

popes man riva

Vinicio Riva, disfigured by neurofibromatosis

I have previously written about the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – but, in this reflection, I focus upon what the dogma teaches us about the human body.  And about the beauty of everybody…

The Dogma of the Assumption declares that Mary, the very human mother of Jesus, now lives bodily in Heaven for eternity, by the power and special grace of God.  Yes, she is in Heaven not only spiritually, but also bodily.  For, in order for a human person to be completely fulfilled, the soul needs the body as much as the body needs the soul.

The Holocaust

The Assumption was declared Dogma in 1950, giving an official mandate and explanation to what Christians have believed since the beginning and publicly celebrated in the earliest centuries. We may wonder why it took so long for the universal declaration to be made – but, we know that all things happen in God’s time.

The proclamation came forth just after World War II, a terrible period of history when millions of human beings were systematically murdered, having been stripped and gassed, their dead bodies heaped in piles like cordwood. The graphic images of this massacre and desecration horrified the world – and the Catholic Church took action. With the proclamation of the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Universal Church, founded by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, gave us a powerful reminder of the dignity and destiny of the human person – body and soul.

Sacred Matter

Our bodies are sacred, not like some kind of prison from which the soul has to escape, and not like some meaningless shell that we can do with as we wish. We are creatures of both flesh and spirit – body and soul as one person – and we believe that our souls will be reunited with our glorified bodies at the end of time, through the salvific power of Christ.

Therefore, it is right and just to respect human bodies. God loves what He has created. The human body is created by God and is not to be profaned, mutilated, abused, murdered, or desecrated in any way – for every human being is intimately and infinitely loved by God and destined for perfection, body and soul, in heavenly glory.

To fulfill this destiny, we need only to seek it through Christ, in the mercy and love of His Sacred Heart.

Loving As Christ Loves, Seeing As God Sees

Perhaps, you have seen someone as deformed as Mr. Riva, or perhaps you know someone who is much less deformed – as I am with my severe scoliosis.  Maybe one of your loved ones is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, severe autism, or brain injury.  You may have a friend, coworker, neighbor, or family member who is a grave sinner, someone who seems to you to be far from the ideal of a human person, who may even seem to you to be inferior or cursed in some way.  But, did Christ not love the lepers?  Did he not sit and dine with the sinners?  And did Christ not do these things because he loves human beings, so much so that he was willing to give his life for humankind so that each person could be redeemed to the beautiful eternal destiny that he saw waiting for them?

We know that human beings come in all physical shapes and sizes and in all levels of physical and mental abilities.  Some of us have twisted or missing limbs and some have faces so scarred or disfigured that they are hardly recognizable as human.  Far too often, in our society, we don’t even recognize human beings in the first stages of life as human beings.  But, make no mistake about it, whether small and weak, whether impaired in cognition, babbling and drooling, whether aged and decrepit or delayed or deformed – we are all human.  And if we are truly going to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption, then we must remember that everybody, every body, is beautiful in the eyes of God, who sees each of our particular heavenly glories….

What would happen if we saw each other that way? What if we truly remember that each human creature we encounter, whether mentally disabled, physically deformed, or mired in sin, is exquisitely beautiful in the eternal eyes of God? If we could see the heavenly glory that God intends for each one of them – for each one of us – we would be blown away by the intense radiance of that beauty, the eternal destiny of every human being redeemed and resurrected by the power of God’s love.

And then, maybe, we would love one another as God loves us and we would experience something of Heaven on Earth.

Pope Francis kisses disfigured man

© 2016 Christina Chase

 

Favorite Things: Quotes from Saint Therese

It’s a human inclination to want to be famous, wealthy, or influential in some grand way. I want to be a successful author, with big dreams of making bestseller lists and overcoming my severe disability to support myself and my family. It may happen, God only knows.  But, it won’t start there.  The purpose for which God created me begins here and now, in this moment, as tiny and seemingly insignificant as this moment may be.

Our lives are made up of small moments. What we do in those small moments and how we do them determines how we live – how we live here and now, and how we live forever. Joy is in the loving of each moment of each day – not in amassing.

quote Saint Therese little things with love

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said it best. Because she lived it. She had big dreams Continue reading

The Atheistic Questions: Genesis

Saw this classic on a preview for a TV sitcom:

“If God made Adam and Eve and they had Cain and Abel, then where did Cain and Abel’s wives come from?”

Genesis Roelandt-Savery

The little girl preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation seems to have bewildered and flustered her “very Catholic” mother with this question. But, any “very Catholic” person should know the answer… Continue reading

Something about Mary

Mary statue close-up Catholic Suncook

There sure are a lot of titles for Mary, the mother of Jesus – more than I can list, or even know and remember. Virgin Mary. Blessed Mother. Our Lady. Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Queen of Heaven and Earth. And so on, and on, and on… besides the names given to her apparitions throughout the world, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima…. All Mary.

Why?

I think it’s a case of giddiness – the good kind.

We Catholic Christians are Continue reading

Weird and Wonderful: the Essence of the Ascension

It’s time, once again, to reflect upon the Ascension of Jesus Christ…

Okay, it’s true, Catholics believe some radical things.  Like the Ascension. We profess that Jesus not only rose from the dead, but also went bodily to a supernatural place that we call Heaven. His risen body is glorified, we believe, able to eat, walk, withstand probing, and all the other things that a normal body can do – but also able to pass through walls and bear a deadly wound without death or bleeding. And, now, Jesus, in all that he is, both human and divine, abides bodily… somewhere… some where that isn’t exactly here… or there… somewhere from which he will return… somewhere which we hope to be. This is the Catholic Christian faith. And it does rather seem all too fantastic to be true.

But, then again, have you heard about quarks? Dark matter? Dark energy? The world which we take to be solid and true is too wonderful to comprehend in its entirety or even in the entirety of its smallest part… for what is its smallest part? We would know nothing of the existence of, say, subatomic particles if a privileged few people hadn’t “seen” them and then told us about them. Tales of whitedwarfs and blackholes sound like mere tall tales indeed, but the small percentage of our population, called scientists, are intelligent and fervent in their telling of them. And we accept. We have not seen the proof and, even if we did, most of us would not be able to understand the “proof” – but, we believe.

Life is profoundly complex and marvelously weird. We would be arrogant to think that everything in existence can fit into our limited brains. There is so much more than what we know, so much more than what we can imagine…. The myriad clusters of stars and sweep of galaxies in the night sky are as beautiful to my eyes as the exuberant profusion of blue forget-me-nots in the garden beneath my window. Sometimes, I may think that the superabundance of suns and planets in the universe renders the specially-intended and divinely-loved existence of human beings into a myth. Yet… is it a myth, a fairytale, that the superabundance of apple blossoms blooming only rarely yield forth a tree? From countless seeds come not countless plants – all that is required, all that is hoped for, is but one.
DSCN8106

This is how God creates. For this is how God loves. Profusely, limitless, overgenerous in creative exuberance and abundant forgiveness… what goodness there is now is only the smallest part of what will be.

So, yes, I believe. Jesus, our savior and Lord, is fully where he promised to be, where he will call us to join him one day. Although we may not know “where” that is, we know the way… the way of  Christ, of pure and self-giving love without limits. Just so, though we may not know the exact purpose and workings of the plethora of stars and flowers, we know the beauty… the wonder and awe-inspiring beauty of life…

– of life loved exuberantly into being.

© 2016 Christina Chase
originally posted 2015

photo© 2015 Dan Chase