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.

7 comments on “1973-2013

  1. […] 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 Source: Neal Obstat Theological Opining   […]

  2. ritap24 says:

    what is the creative action of God? The creative action of God is what makes human life sacred? I don’t quite understand.

    • Yes, in the language of Donum Vitae, the sacredness of life (sacred, from the Latin sacra, meaning ‘holy’) comes from the fact that life is created by God and for God, and so the meaning, value and destiny of that life is to be found in the will, intent and design of God as Creator. And at the heart of the Jewish-Christian understanding of human life as the ‘image of God,’ human persons are the only creatures on earth who have intrinsic and inviolable value given by God, can never be used merely as a means to an end, and who possess infinite value that can never be intentionally and directly assaulted in an act of murder. This idea of the God-given ‘sacredness of life’ is what grounds the absolute prohibition against the direct taking of innocent human life, and ensures that no government or other authority can assert the right to withdraw from certain persons or races the right to life; since that right is only recognized and never conferred by any human authority, institution or ideology.

      • ritap24 says:

        I have no idea what you said. I study the Bible and
        Theology, but what you are saying is not familiar
        at all. Is this Catholic Theology?

      • No need to be Catholic to read the Gospel of Life! It is based in the Bible — the New Testament and the Old Testament (you need both). My suggestion is that you read the Gospel of Life at the link I sent you and discover the wonder of Jesus Christ in it; as it’s His Gospel of Life!

    • All that I said here is Bible and Theology, and yes, I am a Catholic theologian — I recommend you read The Gospel of Life for a Catholic take on this that is much more complete than I could do in a comment. See here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/encyc/jp2evang.htm

      • ritap24 says:

        Thank you. I am not a Catholic. I follow the four Gospels and The New Testament of Jesus Christ only.

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