Letter to Readers
From the Editor-in-Chief
This 2014 winter issue focuses on “birthing.” Our editorial team pored over titles that could capture our thrust for this Christmas issue. “Birthing” won the day for its unique capacity to link the solidity of a noun (“birth”) with the fluidity of a verb (“to give birth”). Modern linguists may frown upon an attempt to build a worldview—so tender and yet so firm—on a grammatical form; however, preachers may imagine a world in which life is both gift and giving.
Birthing that enters our life as a process instead of a fleeting moment is also reflected in the liturgical calendar that places the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25. A good number of us are accustomed to hearing of the Annunciation during Christmas pageants, and the kind librarians at Vanderbilt University Divinity School joined me on a quest for what lies behind the oddity that advises us to celebrate the Annunciation in middle of Lent or in light of Easter. Soon it dawned on us that the placement of the Annunciation in March made heart-warming sense. The feast marks the beginning of the period of gestation of the mother who dwells on the blessing of a life that has found home in her womb. A number of our authors also speak of gestation in the birthing of all that are precious in the life of the believing communities—like the gestation of the Word in the womb of Mary the mother of Jesus. Hence the Marian feast of March 25 in the Catholic worship tradition.
It is revealing that the Annunciation usually comes in the middle of Lent unless Easter takes place unusually early. Even as we reflect upon the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are reminded of God who came to us in flesh. The merging of life and death is serenely depicted in the famous 14th to 15th century Mérode Altarpiece from the workshop of Robert Campin of the Netherlands, now housed in the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. In the corner of the center piece of the triptych, we see a little being flying into the room while carrying a cross. In this ancient animation, the gospel story takes us from the womb to the tomb. It is breathtaking.
Our days may be filled with the shadow of death that accompanies our frailty. We may hardly pass a moment without worrying about our loved ones or mourning over the missed opportunities to show kindness. We may feel our knees bend under “life’s crushing load” (as we sing with Edmund Hamilton Sears’s carol, “It Came upon a Midnight Clear”). Yet, as we patiently hear through the lines of the carol, we come to “rest behind the weary road and hear the angels sing.” Even then it is not the end of our song. The gestation of hope takes time.
Let hope prosper in the land of the living through the love of God. We learn from the expecting mother, who lets gladness wrap her body and soul. We are being given birth.
Peace and hope to you,
Jin H. Han
Editor in Chief