GUEST COLUMN
Earthiness as Sacred

March 1989By Ken Russell

The Rev. Ken Russell is Associate Pastor of St. John’s 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 woman’s 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 Lord’s 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 Church’s 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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