Nearly two weeks ago now we welcomed Mabel into the world, and being present at the birth brought back that intense rush of emotion that is hard to describe. Indeed, back on 27 December 2018 when Ezra was born, with Christmas carols still ringing in my ears (O come let us adore him) from the recent festivities, I sent a text to my supervisor, Angela Webb, saying:
“I ‘get’ adoration in a way I never did before… It’s impossible to describe everything that happens in birth, just am in awe and adore.”
That holds up for Mabel now as it did for Ezra two years ago.
Bringing some theological reflection on this – and trying to make some tiny dent in the ever-growing and sadly often unread stacks of books on my shelves – I recently read something in Kathryn Tanner’s book, ‘Christ the Key’, which struck me as quite appropriate and lovely.
She writes – “humans… [live] off God, so to speak, by drawing their very life, that is, from the divine image to which they cling, in something like the way an unborn baby lives off the life of its mother, living in, with, and through her very life”.
You may recognize an echo of Paul’s words in the Acts of the Apostles (17.28), “in God we live and move and have our being”.
Apart from adoring, there is also wonder of course, in its various guises. ‘I wonder what Ezra and Mabel will be like as they grow up? What will they do? What will inspire them? How will we best nurture them in the faith that they may have the best chance of embracing whatever vocation God has called them into, exercising their God-given gifts? What kind of trials will come their way in life, what joys and wounds will they experience, how closely will they cling to Christ, how open to the Spirit will they be…’
Adoring, wondering – all a part of parenting.
Most of those questions I cannot know the answer to at this stage, as even though I think I do a pretty decent job of being a father and they have a truly wonderful mother, they will be open to more influences and guiding figures than just us (though our love for them is and always will be unmatched, excepting God).
There’s plenty of time for worrying about the vulnerabilities and challenges of parenting though, and whilst contending with a high-energy toddler and a new baby is its own challenge, I’m content to rest with happy reflections at the moment.
I once heard of a parish priest who visited some parishioners who had just had a baby – and the clergyperson watched the new father gazing with adoration at his newborn. “That’s the way God looks at every one of us”, he said.
I hope and pray Ezra and Mabel strongly take hold of that love in their lives, and come to know God as Father/Mother, through the knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God for these wonderful little people.
Words mentioned are from Kathryn Tanner, Christ the Key, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p.15. citing, Panayiotis Nellas, Deification in Christ: The Nature of the Human Person, trans. Norman Russell (Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997), p.118, citing Nicolas Kavasilas, Life in Christ, in J. P. Migne (ed.), Patrologia Graeca (Paris, 1958), vol. 150, columns 600CD, 601AB.