When Does The Person Begin?




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"Each One of Us is an Icon of the Beginning"

Activity follows, that is manifests, being53,
just as mission accomplishes54 (cf. Jn 19: 30) vocation
.

The openness to life characteristic of the Catholic vision of the Christian family is, because of the embodied intentionality of the Creator in the inter-personal and intra-personal facts of the family, the doctrinal expression which complements the created reality.  In other words the family manifests, in the created order, the most intimate reality of the interior life of the Blessed Trinity: the openness to life which is the Father's eternal generation of the Son, and the spiration of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son.  Thus it it can be said that each member of the Blessed Trinity is by definition ever open to the Life of the Other.

Secondly: why did God create and call man, male and female, to co-create with God (cf. Gn 4: 1) in what can be called a covenant of the flesh: such that where a living body of a human being is brought into existence, God will create at that same moment the soul that will give it life?  This was because even if God could foresee all manner of human procreation which would be contrary to His will - from adultery to the mass production of laboratory produced clones - He nevertheless irrevocably expressed Himself in what He chose to be the good of making man male and female.  For making man male and female was both the necessary pre-supposition of the gift of the sacrament of marriage, which in a way 'completes' the gift of sexuality to which it is interiorly ordered.  But the further reason for this 'sacramental completion' of the gift of sexuality was to further reveal the sacredness at the heart of human procreation: precisely because human procreation calls upon the creative act of God.  This, in a sense, is both the greatness of the sacrament of marriage and, as it were, the suffering for God of its imperfect realisation.  For the power of God to begin human life is so completely given to the man and the woman that this constitutes, in a way, the vulnerability of God to man.  God chose to be made vulnerable precisely in His strength as Creator.  Is this to reveal the mystery of what it is to be a true Father of mankind?

The Creator, through the nature of human procreation, has given to men and women a participation in His own power to create in a way which not only makes our cooperation indispensable but which also gives to us, as in the true nature of a gift, a giving in the gift of fertility which makes the Creator a servant of man.  For once the Creator has made us in the beginning, He gives to us the iniative in the act by which the human race is given to increase; and it is in response to our initiative that the Creator then wills, in each and every act of fertilization, to cooperate with and to give, Himself, His own power to create from nothing and thus to bring into existence the soul at the same moment the body begins to be.  Each human person is, therefore, an Icon of the beginning55 (cf. Gn 1: 1).  For each human person is a 'witness' to the creative act of God (cf. Gn 4: 1) which is written into the very beginning of their being.  This entire mystery is so completely expressed in the aforementioned reference to the words of Genesis that I will in fact quote it in full: 'Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord"' (Gn 4: 1).

God clearly expressed the unequivocal goodness of His creation of us precisely in the extent to which He entrusts to us the degree of participation that He gives to us in the co-creation of human life.  In other words, one can almost speak of a Divine confidence in man.  For our Creator undoubtedly foresaw the terrible tragedy of absolutely every evil act ever done, and to be done, summed up in the sufferings of His own only Son56 - but still He created us out of love and renewed us through the love of His Son Jesus Christ for us.  He freely created us good; but only recreates us in the image of His goodness if we freely choose the gift of our redemption - in the very grace given choice of our conversion to Christ.  It is perhaps the nature of the act of conversion to Christ - of turning to God - which, possibly more than anything else, leads to a spirituality of being open to life.




References
53 F. C. Copleston, Aquinas, (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd., 1955), page 158.  Abbrev. A.    Back
54 Cf. A page 186.    Back
55 I was helped with the thinking through of this, through my participation in a conference organized by Stratford Caldecott, of the Centre For Faith & Culture, currently situated at Westminster College, Oxford.  The conference was held on the 21 March 1998, in the Newman Room of the Oxford Catholic Chaplaincy.  The principal presentation was on The Nuptial Mystery at the Heart of the Church by Bishop Angelo Scola.    Back
56 Pope John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, (Homebush, NSW 2140: St Paul Publications, 1984), articles 20 and 18, pages 47 and 41.  Abbrev. SD.    Back

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