The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb… (Is 49:3)
The womb is a blessed place. Any place ought to be held blessed which is the fundamental and foremost cradle of all human life. Without the womb there would be no human life. Even those modern vices of fetal surrogacy and fashioning children in laboratories would fail utterly without the womb as their anchor and agent.
The womb is the nursery endorsed by nature for the original nourishment of children. It should be highly honored. The womb and its fertility should be respected and venerated as the vessel of life chosen by God. It should not violated for personal goals. The womb is not just good for something; as the kernel of femininity it is good-in-itself. Thus no person should ever take it upon himself (or herself) to use the womb for their own profit nor ever cause it violence. The womb is inviolate; direct abortion being directly abhorrent to it. Any man who would traffic or purge the womb is a brigand and a home invader; any woman who would freely offer it violence is as a priest who would desecrate his own tabernacle.
During this week many of our parishioners will march for life in Washington D.C.! They hope as best they can to form a circle of protection around the womb from all its violators. But just as much as this, they hope to shine a light on the beauty of God’s creation in the womb and the special dignity due to each and every individual knitted in the womb, intentionally or not, as the image of God.
For this 2nd Sunday in Ordinary time, just as we depart the Christmas season, we place on our bulletin cover for this month dedicated to the cause of life, a work by the 20th century Danish painter L.A. Ring entitled, At the French Windows; an Artist’s Wife (1897). Ring is considered both a realist and a symbolist, painting works that range between realism and symbolism. His scenes vary from pastoral landscapes to the genre of laborers to dark spiritual images.
In the scene adorning our bulletin cover some experts have surmised that Ring, an atheist, was contrasting ordered humanity with untamed nature by the contrast of the pregnant woman with a gnarled nearby tree. However, we think this is applying the symbolist interpretation too radically toward a work based solidly in realism.
If there is any symbolism here it appears to be a celebration of life through a flower motif. The bending posture of the tree is in fact realism; realistic for instance to a Hawthorn as are its white blossoms which express here the fruitfulness of the artist’s wife. Ring paints his wife as a long-stem flower leaning in the opposite direction of the small tree near to her. The gold ribbon around her waist emphasizes her “blossoming” child. Blooms decorate her dress as even her neckline appears as white petals. Taken as a whole, the artist’s wife is depicted as a Brown-eyed-Susan expressing the bourgeoning landscape of life.
As noted, it is said that Ring was an atheist. Yet, even a sincere atheist expecting a child cannot fail to see the wonder and loveliness of the womb in full bloom; nor can a sincere artist refrain from painting its blessedness.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services