Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ritual blessings, the sign of the family, and the Theology of the Body

The USCCB made news last year when they wrote and authorized a blessing of the child in the womb.  And this picture of Pope Francis blessing a woman's unborn child quickly went viral:

The blessing is lovely, paying attention to the child, asking for health and a safe delivery, the woman who has now experienced the "joy of motherhood," and the man, who has been "graced with fatherhood."  What is beautiful about this prayer is the reminder embedded within it that the family has been established at the moment of conception.  But what is remarkable is how it expresses that the family is indeed a dynamic sign of love, grace, and joy, within itself but within the play of the economic Trinity as well.  The gift and the giving fundamentally expressed through the family's devotion to God in the callings of motherhood and fatherhood.

While I can imagine a few people arguing pregnancy is not always a joy--it's physically difficult for many--we have to remember that joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  It transcends physical realities and may be granted without being fully felt.  It is deeper than comfort and happy ease.

How does this blessing, focusing on grace, joy, love, and protection embody the law of the gift?  Read the full blessing and think about it.  I know I am grateful for this blessing, a sign that points to a sign that points to God's love.  Given how God's love overwhelms every created sign, we need all the reminders and signs we can get.