On Christmas night, the angels announced “good news of a great joy” to shepherds tending their flocks. The shepherds were told to look for a sign, a “baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). This was not a miraculous sign, but it was the only one they received – and the only one they needed. The sight of a mother and her Child, now so rarely displayed at Christmas time, was enough for them to recognize the arrival of the Messiah.
The image of a mother and her newborn child – is this not the emblem of the pro-life movement? Despite Canada’s ever-dwindling religious spirit, Christmas is still a special time in which we can all celebrate the mystery of children and the dignity of motherhood; Christmas still brings us a sense of collective excitement and joy.
And yet, as the poet says, even as we are “reverently, passionately waiting for the miraculous birth,” there remain those who do “not specially want it to happen.” The culture of death is so pervasive that pregnancy is often not something to celebrate. The late Pennsylvania governor, Robert Casey, made the point very clear when he asked: “Once a child has been conceived, what is the proper response of a good society? … If pregnancy presents a challenge, do we as a society rise to the challenge by dispensing with the child? And when a pregnancy comes at a difficult time, what is the worthier response? Do we surround mother and child with protection and love or do we hold out to her the cold comfort of a trip to an abortionist?”
But Christ’s coming anticipates this, too: it brings us consolations with its joy. For this Child, too, is unwelcome; the inn has no room. This Child is also poor; and the manger alone receives him. Thus, the infant Child shows us a life that is totally dependent: on the goodness of his parents, the generosity of his neighbors, and the restraint of the rulers of his age.
And at the same time, this Child – who perfectly joins beauty with fragility – illustrates the majesty and dignity of the human person; the Incarnation definitively links the holiness of God with the sanctity of human life. This sanctity is inviolable; it is not dependent on any ephemeral whim or desire, nor quantifiable in terms of quality, nor limited by any kind of power, prerogative or misunderstood “right.” Blessed Mother Teresa, who cared for the poorest people on the earth, saw the selfishness that creates the epidemic of abortion in Western counties as the world’s greatest deprivation: “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
Society is always shaped by the attitude it takes to the mother and her child. After the Second World War, the German philosopher Hannah Arendt concluded her three-volume study of Totalitarianism with this very point: “(Human) freedom … is identical to the fact that men are being born and that each of them is a new beginning; begins, in a sense, the world anew.” This perpetual regeneration is precisely what the totalitarian state cannot tolerate and it is also the surest safeguard of free people. A healthy, joyful attitude towards the family is the surest protection of social freedom in all countries at all times.
“That a beginning be made, man was created,” said St. Augustine. In the pro-life movement, sometimes political setbacks cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture. This “bigger picture,” of course, is the family portrait. The family is both immediate and extended and it crosses distances and generations, linking people by ancestry and nationality, but most important, it links them with love. And this is precisely what we celebrate at Christmas.
The most powerful defence of the sanctity of life is its celebration and the words of the prophet Isaiah are meant for us today: “For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given” (Is 9:6).
We at The Interim wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a New Year full of joy.