Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This Is The Fasting I Desire

Every night baby William and I contend together as to whether I'll put him down or he'll put me down. He wins most of the time -- he has cuteness and the baby sleep waves on his side, while I am weighed down by thirty extra pounds of quotidian grind. This, as you may have noticed, cuts into my writing time. William is content to let me sit in front of the computer as long as I'm nursing him. This literally cramps my style -- the weird contortions of wrist and spine necessary to type while a baby is attached to your breast just aren't conducive to the free play of imagination.

And I'm not sitting in front of the computer much since giving up Facebook for Lent. This is not just as a negative result of the sacrifice (which scarcely impinges on me, to tell the truth), but as a result of the positive effort to reform my schedule and put my vocation first. I'm seeing the first promising buds of springtime inside and out as bits of my daily life are gradually coming back into a small sort of order, and though it's a continuing process of dying to self, I want that order to spread and grow.

These fruits seem to be the result of an odd fast -- a fast from reading and writing. As I've given up reading all but a few essential blogs and a few essential books, and given up writing almost all together,  both my prayer life and my home life have been strengthened. I can't undertake a strenuous fast from food this Lent while I'm nursing the ravenous beast (three months today!) but God seems to be giving me a different fasting from overconsumption. I'm trying to accept this by taking my different evening time as a gift instead of a frustrating battle to get the baby down so I can write.

Psalm 40, from today's mass readings, says that God doesn't not require sacrifice and holocausts, but a heart open to do His will. The holocausts were the required offering, much as fasting from food is during Lent. But I can't follow the required fast, so God has given me a different fast from writing and reading, and in following it I myself become writing and reading: "“See; I come with an inscribed scroll written upon me. I delight to do your will, my God; your law is in my inner being!” (Ps. 40: 7-8)

ADDENDUM: Fr. Barron on fasting as distancing yourself from a good thing to allow deeper hungers to emerge.


Intertwined with all this is my effort to say the rosary daily. I'm following The Rosary: 31 Days, 31 Ways (recommended to me in the comments by Angelico Nguyen of The Korrectiv), and also reading along with Enbrethiliel's Book Club posts on The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort. In keeping with the theme of putting work into my actions, I'm trying hard to meditate on the mysteries when I pray them, instead of just rattling through the decades, and I'm also trying hard to let that meditation turn into prayer instead remaining just a novel I write in my head.

Today is the feast of the Annunciation, so here's my meditation on the first decade of the Joyful Mysteries:

When Mary says to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know man?", the angel tells her not to be afraid and speaks comforting words about how nothing is impossible with God. However, just a few verses earlier in Luke, Zechariah asks almost exactly the same question about how his wife Elizabeth can be pregnant in her old age, and the angel rebukes him and strikes him dumb. Why is Zechariah punished for questioning while Mary is commended? Well, Mary is asking how the impossible can occur. She is a virgin, and she isn't getting married that day, and she knows that God is not asking her to go out and sin to get pregnant. It's a fair question, and the angel answers it seriously. In Zechariah's case, he's married. As long as he and Elizabeth are having sex, they're performing the creative act that brings children into the world, even though they've been infertile until now. John the Baptist's conception isn't a miracle. A couple getting pregnant when they have sex is not a miracle -- it's merely God willing nature to work as He intended it. Jesus's conception is a miracle, a physical impossibility -- a virgin conceiving and bearing a child through no human agency.

One hears the example of infertile couples raised when the discussion turns to the procreative nature of sex, or the natural barrenness of homosexual relations. But the act of sex is how God wills children to enter the world, and He wills to honor biology, whether a man or woman is married or not, fertile or not, contracepting or not. As long as a man and woman are having sex, natural conception is not impossible, whether or not a couple has been trying for years or are having sex for the first time.

I think this mystery also speaks to the immorality of creating babies outside of natural conception. A child has a right to be conceived as the fruit of sex between his or her father or mother. The child also has the right to be conceived into a family, to married parents who have vowed to accept him or her. Any aberration in this -- fornication, rape, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy -- is a violation of the rights of the child. (So is abortion: you don't correct one violation of the child's rights -- conception through rape or fornication, for example -- through violating another right by killing the baby.) If God desires that conception happen outside the natural act of sex in marriage, He doesn't require the agency of man and a lab to make it happen, and He pays the mother the respect of asking her first by sending an angel to make a formal announcement and request.


Jenny said...

"I'm trying to accept this by taking my different evening time as a gift instead of a frustrating battle to get the baby down so I can write."

This is good. M is the most detracted nurser in the history of distracted nursers. There is no reading or surfing while nursing her without a constant battle of latch on, pop off. (Heck, even with nothing in my hands, it is still a battle.) I need to embrace this time as a gift. Look at this baby. Contemplate this gift. The time is fleeting.

"The child also has the right to be conceived into a family, to married parents who have vowed to accept him or her."

Over the years as I have thought about sexual sin and all the ramifications of it, I have come to believe that this right is the one that might be the most important and definitely the most overlooked. Yes, sexual sin damages the individuals who commit it, but that damage is small compared to the irreparable damage inflicted on the innocent child born (or not born) outside of these parameters. We owe it to our children to not have screwed up their lives from the start.

mandamum said...

Re rosary - I heard someone on Al Kresta talking about how he made a "deal" with the Blessed Mother - he'd say one decade of the rosary a day, and asked her to bring him closer to her Son in exchange. What I was struck by was his comment on the fruits of meditating on only one mystery a day - gives you a bit of a theme to chew on throughout the day.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I really like this meditation. Thank you.

I've finally got to the point where I put Lucia down every night and then have time to write after she's in bed. And while I'm very grateful for the time, still I find myself squandering it as often as not. I've been trying to write the same book review for two weeks and I'm kind of stuck so I go stare at my Facebook feed instead of wrestling with it or with the several other pieces of writing that I supposedly want to do but never make the time for. Perhaps I should fast from Facebook after the kids' bedtime for the rest of Lent and see if I can't do more writing and praying.