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Homiletic & Pastoral Review - December 1994
Rev. Peter T. MacCarthy Leeds, Ala.

One's initial approach to this study may well be in terms of questions like: What is there to say? How can it be found? How can the Incarnation be examined? Popular devotion seems to focus more on the Mother than on the Child, yet they are inseparable. This needs to be examined. The abortion industry has promoted emphasis on the mother to the exclusion of the child who is regarded as a thing regardless of the euphemisms used.

This is a study of the hypostatic union in the context of the pre-natal months of the God-Man "living in Mary." The sources for this have been the Councils, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, Scripture, philosophy and mystical theology: the sources of revelation. It is a theological study, not a devotional reflection yet it opens vistas for contemplation and inspiration.

Nine chapters develop the pattern of the author's thesis. Beginning with "The moment God became Man," he focuses on the Gospels to explain Mary's query: "How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?" This is rich in the theology and tradition of the Infancy narratives. Appreciation of Scriptural imagery and the poetry of the Fathers brings the wonder of hypostasis out in terms of "Sanctuary," "Ark," "Tabernacle," "Mother of Manna" and the "Bridal Chamber."

The faith and scholarship of medieval Catholics embellish the observation of St. Cyril of Mexandria writing that "
we worship, not a divinized human but a humanized God." Thus, feelings, thoughts and insights from loving meditation and life portray the condition of the unborn child.

Revelling in paradoxes, the age of the Baroque matured the vision of "
God made Man; Virgin made Mother" in a communion of love, irreversible and eternal. The reality of the Divine Person's presence expands with the insights of contemplative saints.

In his sixth part the author brings the revelations to the practical level of "
Christ in the womb of the heart." The same in-dwelling of the Son is as possible and real in the depths-hearts-of all generous disciples. Since our conception is the very root of our nature, he went to the root to repair our nature from the very foundation, to paraphrase Andrewes. The Eucharist is a kind of extension of the Incarnation. The Son of God wants to be with us and in us in the same flesh in which He was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary. The enormity of contraception and abortion glares before this reality.

The denouement of this treatise reaches its crescendo in the final chapter: "Revelation in the Womb" wherein the Word as a man by the simplicity of his embryonic life revealed God and the "
foolish" love of the Trinity for mankind."

This book has to be inspiring for those who value life in the womb. It provides a rich foundation for reflection on the mystery of Theotokos. It is a most extensive treatment of "
The Woman" in terms of on-going revelation through Scripture. It is comprehensive, deep, insightful and integrated through extensive research and diligent study evident in copious foot-notes.

Particularly striking is the author's marked sensitivity to human feelings. here is a charm, a certain gentility, about this book that radiates the faith and devotion of genuine scholars. The reader can expect a vision enlightening and inspiring in a work of love and devotion.

Marian Library Newsletter - Spring-summer 1994

Catholic spirituality is centred on Christ. Whereas modern thinking strives to interpret the exact words and teachings of Christ. an older spirituality and theology concentrated on the interior dispositions of Christ - his poverty. obedience. filial piety. resignation -and the events of his life. These "mysteries" or "states" of Christ's life continue into the present, and the Christian spirituality, consists in reliving and participating in these attitudes and events.

Formerly of Urshaw College. Durham. and now at St. Charles Borremo Seminary, Philadelphia, John Saward presents a rich work of theology, spirituality, and ethics to consider one period of Christ's life-the nine months he passed within the body of the virgin Mary. This '
work of reclamation,' as Professor Saward terms it, brings together "what early Christian writers, Christian philosophy, liturgy. poetry, and iconography." have said about this now forgotten period - the nine months of Jesus embryonic and fetal life in Mary.

Central to the story is the Annunciation, 'the chief feast of the Incarnation." Christ's birth is the manifestation to the world of what occurred at the Annunciation. Through Mary's Yes. the preexisting Son of God assumed a human flesh and a human soul. The Eastern writers, especially Maximus the Confessor. insist upon the inseparability of body and soul, the wholeness of Christ's human person from the very beginning.

Christian spirituality does not limit communication to the verbal. At the Visitation, Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant. bears within her the God-become-man who sanctifies his forerunner, John the Baptist. Jesus' mission of sanctifying others begins even before his birth. Both Elizabeth and Joseph are filled with reverential wonder in the presence of the divine within Mary. Elizabeth expresses amazement that Mary, "the Mother of the Lord" should come to her. Joseph wanted to leave Mary, not because he was ashamed of her conduct, but because he sensed the divine presence within her. Mary's Assumption is the final transfer of the Ark, the "
shrine of the living God."

This indwelling of Christ in Mary's womb is a figure of Christian reality. The womb in which Christ now dwells is "wide as the world" - it is the Church, the Eucharist, the individual. In each case, Christ comes trusting and defenseless, present as an unborn child awaiting a birth.

Saward's book is the perfect Advent book - the Advent not limited to the liturgical season. Caryll Houselander, whom Saward regards as a prophet, saw Advent as a time of darkness, of waiting. "
We shall not see Christ's radiance in our lives yet; it is still hidden in our darkness; nevertheless, we must believe that He is growing in our lives; we must believe it so firmly that we cannot help relating everything, literally everything, to this almost incredible reality."

Copyright © Named Authors 1994

This version: 7th February 2003

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