Word of the Day: LIFE

Word of the Day: LIFE

Two thirds of our students at Thomas More College are not at the school today, but are in Washington, in the annual March for LIFE. They will probably outnumber the good people from my last school, that shall remain Nameless, even though Nameless has forty times the enrollment.

You will see plenty of young people there, thousands of whom will be sleeping tonight on the stone floor in the lower church, at the National Basilica. They aren’t angry. They are cheerful and hopeful and happy. People who really enjoy being around babies and little children usually are. These are the grown children of parents who suffered them to come into the world visibly. They had already come into the world, at conception.

When Christians read the soaring prologue to the gospel of John, what do they make now of the verse, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”? When did that happen? Everybody knew. Dante knew: that is why the key moment in the history of salvation, as he portrays it in canto 10 of Purgatory, is not the nativity of Christ, but His conception: when Mary says, “Ecce ancilla Domini,” THAT is when the key is turned in the lock, that is when all things change. It explains why Christians had the old tradition of beginning the year not with January, but with March — as Spenser does in his Mutability Cantos, and in the Amoretti. Christ is a part of our LIFE in the flesh at the moment when Mary submits to the invitation given by the messenger of God.

If you are Catholic and you are confused about abortion, please consider that you are essentially saying that Mary could have gone to some physician to rid herself of the child in the womb, and that that would not have been IN ITSELF a great evil. Do you really believe that? Do you believe that the Word was made flesh only nine months later? Did Jesus have no flesh the day before He was born? What was it, a hologram? An imagination? Inert stuff gathering, like a stalactite? You cannot believe that. It makes neither scientific nor theological sense. And please do not say that the evil depended upon WHO was in her womb. “For whatever you do to the least of these,” says Jesus, “you do to me.” Nor say that Jesus was not ALIVE then. Do we not believe that the baby John leaping in the womb of Elizabeth was ALIVE? We believe that that was his first act of prophecy, unwitting though it was. Something inert was jumping around in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary came to greet her?

The word LIFE is unusual in the Indo European languages. In Latin, we have the verb VIVERE, to LIVE, along all its kin, VITA, VIVIDUS, VITALIS, coming from the productive root GWEI; in Latin, the GW reduced to W, spelled V. In Greek, the rounded GW consonant became the rounded labial consonant B, and so we have BIOS, LIFE; also Welsh BYD. In Germanic, the GW > KW, spelled CW, so we have Anglo Saxon CWIC > Modern English QUICK, ALIVE, whose signification is preserved in the phrase from the old wording of the creed, “the QUICK and the dead,” and in the phrase “to be cut to the QUICK,” and in the QUICK under your fingernail, where you start to bleed. But LIFE, the word, is not related to these. Its root has to do with STICKING AROUND: so, Greek LIPOS, FAT, which sticks, and one of the English words spelled LEAVE, meaning to ALLOW TO REMAIN AS IS.

God bless the people marching for hope and not death.

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