Earthiness as Sacred
March 1989By Ken Russell
The Rev. Ken Russell is Associate Pastor of St. Johns Catholic Church in El Cerrito, California.
Many of my friends are neophyte Catholics who chose to enter the Church as adults. They tend to be a breed apart, not yet infected by the ennui and boredom that spell religion for so many people today. They often bring with them the gift of fresh perceptions of the Church.
One such perception came from a woman who expressed surprise, if not dismay, that the Church in its celebrations and proclamation of the Gospel could so forthrightly deal on levels of earthy realities that many genteel people might avoid discussing in polite conversation. The comment was made after Mass on the feast of the Immaculate Conception last year.
As a cradle Catholic, one caught up in the flow of take-it-all-for-granted, I had not focused on this area of the womans concern over the years. But now her perception attracted my fancy and has generated some reflections on the all-encompassing meaning of our incarnational faith.
The woman, of course, was right. We do celebrate and proclaim publicly some very private human activities that might well cause some folks to feel a bit squeamish. The Church does celebrate, for example, conception not once, not twice, but three times over the course of the year. We celebrate the conception of the Lord through the power of the Spirit in the womb of our Blessed Mother. This feast is the Annunciation. (We also proclaim this event during the Advent season.) We celebrate as well the conception of our Blessed Mother in the womb of her mother the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Also, during the last week of Advent we proclaim the conception of the Lords cousin, John the Baptist, in the aged womb of his mother, Elizabeth. And lest anyone accuse the Church of gazing too intently on such hidden womanly doings, recall that the Churchs public proclamation of the Gospel includes two circumcisions that of the Lord and that of John the Baptist, both rituals reported in the infancy narratives.
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