Authentic Christianity is inextricably pro-life. This pro-life ethic is not merely a conviction, precept, or tradition. At the very heart of the Christian religion is the birth of a Baby. I’m reminded of this truth every late Advent as I set up our outdoor crèche.
Old Testament prophecy repeatedly spoke of a mother and her Infant. Every Jew anticipated the appearance of the one and the delivery of the Other. When this Babe was finally born, pagans from the East travelled to an unfamiliar land to offer worship and gifts to the Child. King Herod – that precursor of modern infanticide – sought to kill Him. Angels sang in praise of this Infant in a manger, while shepherds left their flocks to offer their own humble homage. The world – the entire universe – would never be the same, due to this Son born of a Virgin Mother.
At the Annunciation – which pinpointed the exact “fullness of time” in salvation history – the angel Gabriel declared to Mary from Nazareth that she would conceive the Messiah. At the same time, she was told that her kinswoman, Elizabeth, had also conceived a child in her relative old age, and was already six months pregnant. Immediately, Mary set off from Nazareth to visit Elizabeth in the hills of Judea to assist Elizabeth with the pregnancy. The journey would have taken about four days.
When Mary reached the house of Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, she greeted them perhaps from the doorway, as we might give a shout at a friend’s door to see if anyone is home. Elizabeth heard the greeting, and when she came to Mary, she said, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, the moment that the sound of thy greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leapt for joy.”
Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist, who was six months old at the time. And yet, she referred to him as, “the babe in my womb.” No, not as the “pregnancy matter” or “fetal tissue,” but as the “babe.” For six months, this pre-born future little prophet had fully been a human being in his mother’s womb, not a mass of cells lodged in the wall of a uterus. Elizabeth, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:41), rightly affirmed this, calling her pre-born child, not a biological lump, but a person.
Notice how Elizabeth addressed Mary: “And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” It was not that Mary one day would be a mother, after the birth of her Son. No, by virtue of the child she presently carried in her womb, Mary was already a mother. She, too, was carrying, not a “clump of cells,” but a human being, a Person. And how old was this Child at this point? He was all of five days old.
Again, authentic Christianity is inextricably pro-life. It holds with the certainty of divine revelation that every human being, from the first instant of conception to the last second of life in this world (and beyond), possesses a supreme value and dignity, and all the rights that belong to a human person. No mental or physical condition, no defect or disorder, no injury or illness, no stage of development or deterioration, can possibly decrease the humanity of a human person, whether young or old. One cannot be or become more or less human, for every human being is by nature and design fully, equally, and eternally human. Thus, nothing could be more contrary to the Christian religion than abortion and the morally perverse reasonings that are used to defend it; and no person could be more conflicted than a “pro-choice” Christian. Such an individual is a contradiction in terms. For to kill a baby is to identify, not with Mary and Joseph, but with Herod the madman. And it is to come as close as one can to murdering God Himself; for every human being, and every infant, therefore, is made in the divine image and likeness.
Is it any wonder that our atheistic blood-drenched culture should increasingly forbid on public property that supreme symbol of the sanctity of human life – the crèche? In a morbid way, this only makes sense. For the repudiation of the sanctity of human life requires the repudiation of Christ and Christianity.
Thousands of years of history and prophecy, and countless Jewish and Gentile hearts, looked to a hay-filled manger in a cave or stable just outside of Bethlehem. Here, all angelic and human hopes were fulfilled when the God of the universe was born a Child to a Virgin Mother.