Friday 25 March 2011

Small miracles - on the Feast of the Annunciation

As miracles go, as St CS Lewis once said (and I paraphrase, because I'm too lazy to look it up), the Virginal Conception is a very small one.
Not the Immaculate Conception.  That is a totally different thing. And don't expect me to explain it. It's too technical and theological. And probably too Catholic for me to grasp. Although, in the eyes of the scientific world, it would be an even smaller miracle, having no physical component whatsoever.

But compared to Lazarus, Bread and Fish, and the Resurrection - the Virginal Conception is a tiny little miracle. Just a minor piece of creation or adjustment of DNA, and the whole of salvation was started. Not that every conception's not a kind of miracle. Nobody ever thought about it and thought "yeah, that makes sense". But this particular conception - amazing as it is - it's only a small miracle. Compared to making the whole of space-time, it's tiny.

Up to Pepsys's time, the Annunciation was often seen as the New Year. Makes sense. The Incarnation didn't start at Christmas - that was 9 months too late. It started at the Annunciation. That was where our God was "contracted to a span - incomprehensibly made man*". That's where the risk started, the fear started, the pain started, the humanity started, the divine humility started. Not in Bethlehem, where implausibly "no crying he made". No, the risk started in Nazareth 9 months earlier, with a scared young girl wondering what to do with the unexpected presence of the Lord of the Universe in her womb.

A tiny little thing, a just-conceived child. With a world of potential. Stalin was a zygote once, so was  Einstein, so was Elizabeth Taylor, so was Margaret Thatcher. So was I and so, assuming you're a human or mouse reading this and not a robot, were you. Nothing special. Just a cell. Just 100 micrometers in size. Just ponder that. That's a bit small to save a Universe if you're looking at size ratios.

Still, from mighty oak trees acorns fall.  And the reverse. A helpless cell the Saviour of the World - the Ruler of the Universe - the King of Kings. And the Man of Sorrows, lined up alongside every other failure, every other drop-out, every other loser the Universe has ever thrown up.  They're powerful things, small miracles.

*I tried the non-sexist version, but it didn't work. I will comfort myself that, where only 7 out of 57 LibDem MPs are women, 33% or more of Anglican clergy are. And 1 out of 1 Beaker Archdruids is. And that, though both of the Popes are men, and one is a Catholic, that's still more Popes than there will be LibDem MPs after the next election.


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