THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
MARCH 25, 2012
Probably the best known of all the music attributed to the pen of Johann Sebastian Bach is the Toccata and Fugue in d minor; certainly, it is the best known of all works composed for the organ. It has become somewhat stereotyped as the quintessential scary piece of music for horror shows.
Many will remember it better in its orchestral transcription by Leopold Stokowski which was the opening musical piece in Walt Disney's Fantasia.
The late Virgil Fox, the greatest organist of the second half of the twentieth century, said that the first three notes of the Toccata...DAH—DEE—DUM...express what the Blessed Virgin Mary experienced at the moment of the Annunciation. Fox called Bach "the fifth evangelist."
Today, March 25, is the ordinary date for the celebration of the Solemnity of the Annunciation, nine months before the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord. (We have nine more shopping months before Christmas!)
For liturgical reasons—the Fifth Sunday of Lent takes precedence—the Church transfers the celebration of the Annunciation until tomorrow. The Annunciation, much more than Christmas, is the celebration of the Incarnation. It was at the Annunciation, when the Blessed Virgin Mary accepted the invitation of the Archangel Gabriel to become the Mother of God, that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (The Angelus, cf John 1: 14). No wonder Virgil Fox compared the opening of the Toccata in d minor to that decisive moment in human history.
Thanks to Mary's fiat, God the Son, the Second Person of The Trinity, was able to take to himself a human nature, becoming like us in all things but sin. We do not mark the beginning of "God-Among-Us" with his birth, but with his miraculous conception and gestation within the body of Mary, his mother.
To those who say that a new distinct human being does not exist until a fetus achieves viability, or until birth and the first breath, we can legitimately ask, "Who, or what, was growing and developing within the Blessed Mother in those first few months?"
Did not the Son of God acquire his human nature immediately upon the assent of the Virgin Mary?
We can ask the same questions about ourselves. "Did I not begin my unique human existence immediately upon my conception within my mother's body?" From that moment, each one of us came into being. This gives lie to those who say that abortion is about allowing a woman to control her own body.
The new child within her is so much not a part of her body that he or she must be protected against the mother's immune system which interprets this growing cluster of cells as a potentially dangerous foreign invader. Recognizing that the unborn are unique human beings does not require religious faith. It is scientific fact that unborn children are genetically different from their fathers and mothers. The unborn child has his or her own genetic code.
As we mark the Incarnation of the Son of God at the Annunciation, let us rededicate ourselves to the proposition that all human life is sacred and must be protected from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death.
Many will say, should abortion be criminalized as it once was in favor of protecting the lives of unborn human beings, that desperate women will still seek to end their pregnancies by killing their babies in utero. Such an argument should have no weight since no one believes that criminalizing any immoral behavior leads to the cessation of such behavior.
We criminalize immoral behaviors because they violate the rights of others; hence laws against stealing, libel, murder, bigamy, identity theft, perjury, tax evasion, etc. We seek to outlaw abortion precisely because it violates a human being's right to exist.
It has been said that abortion is a form of unjust discrimination, making one susceptible to death based upon place of residence. Allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest is punishing the child because his or her father is a monster.
Just as your right not to be injured in a panic takes precedence over my freedom of speech so that my falsely yelling, "Fire!" in a crowded theater is not constitutionally protected, so too should every human being's right to live regardless of age, stage of development, ability to exercise personhood, parentage, and place of residence supersede another's desire not to become a parent. Abortion is not and should not be constitutionally protected.
There is no better way to mark the Solemnity of the Annunciation than to pray and work to bring legalized abortion to a halt.
Pax et Bonum,
Fr. Gregory Coiro, O.F.M.Cap.