Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves “the creative action of God” and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being.
This exquisite line from Donum Vitae, the Vatican’s 1987 instruction on the ethical framework for beginning-of-life technologies, makes an exceptionally important theological and anthropological point that should condition the way all Catholics think about the abortion debate: human beings’ entire identity is irrevocably relational. In particular, from the first instant of conception we enter into a singularly unique relationship with God that will never cease to exist, even if we — God forbid — pass after death into hell’s eternal alienation from God. For even in hell our “eternal loss” is forever defined by our immortal rejection of that forever relationship God created us to embrace.
At the moment of conception, according to the Catholic theological tradition, God creates ex nihilo, “out of nothing,” an absolutely unique, new and unrepeatable soul that informs and “ensouls” the newly conceived body. What a marvelous statement of the eternal and majestic God’s minute attention to this microscopic moment of human genesis within a mother’s womb, and what a sense of awe it awakens as we realize that from that very instant of conception God brings to bear his “love from before all ages” on the fragile cathedral of this newly existing human person stamped with his divine image.
This makes both the mother, bearing this child beneath her heart, and the father, in his covenanted love for the mother-with-child, privileged stewards of God’s supreme gift and of creation’s final purpose: the coming-into-being of a new child of the Most High God who will never cease to exist for the ages upon ages.
It is also true that the relationship between child and mother-father in life’s earliest stages stands as a singular sign of our relationship to God as our Creator: one of absolute dependence that rests on both love and trust, i.e. love that desires and rejoices in our existence, and trust that the one we are utterly dependent upon desires only and always our true good.
This wonderful insight reminds me of a proverb my former spiritual director used to use to make his point: “Every person you encounter is being looked at ceaselessly with love by God. Remember that whenever you look at anyone and are tempted to think otherwise.”
Applied to 1/22: Every child cradled in the womb is being looked at ceaselessly with love by God. Remember that even when the other is unseen and you are tempted to think otherwise.