THE NATIVITY by Michaelangelo da Carravagio
The peace and beauty of this Christmas morning prompts me to extend this greeting and blessing to you, faithful reader of my Blog.
This Christmas I am contemplating the Christ Child in the manger with eyes of faith more than with the eyes of Christmas sentiment. However cold and unsentimental it may seem to you, dear reader, I am fascinated by the apparent contradiction of this helpless infant being the most powerful person in the universe.
This month, on my little ranch, the sheep are having their lambs. As I observe those newborn lambs getting on their feet within minutes of their birth, nursing and then following their mother, I am struck by the contrast with the condition of a newborn human baby. The latter is totally helpless at birth. It cannot focus it’s eyes, it cannot nurse without the help of its mother, it cannot move itself from where it lies, it cannot communicate except by crying.
The mystery I contemplate today is not only why God chose to send his son to us, but that God chose to send his son to us not as a fully grown mature man but as a helpless human infant.
The profundity of the mystery is clearly stated in the Prologue to his Gospel by the Evangelist, Saint John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. ALL THINGS WERE MADE BY HIM: AND WITHOUT HIM WAS MADE NOTHING THAT WAS MADE (emphasis added).
In ages past one could look at the smallest amount of matter and not think of the creative power of Jesus. But all that changed on July 16, 1945. On that day the world’s first nuclear explosion took place on the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico. 6.2 kilograms of plutonium were exploded in a nuclear fission with the force of 18 tons of TNT.
The power of the atom had been unleashed.
Who created the atom? The atom, all atoms, was created by the person lying in that crib as a helpless human infant.
I have always marveled, as I am sure that many others have marveled, at the fact that the explosion of the first atomic device was named the “Trinity Project.” Why was it so named.
The person credited with having given the project that name was one of the fathers of the atomic age: Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer. Dr. Oppenheimer was known to be a Jew. Yet, he, a Jew gave the project a name which obviously refers to the Trinity of Persons in God.
When asked why he had chosen that name, Dr. Oppenheimer gave an interesting answer:
He attributed it to the poetry of John Donne. “In 1962, General Groves, the Director of the Manhattan Project, wrote to Oppenheimer about the origin of the name, asking if he had chosen it because it was a name common to rivers and peaks in the West and would not attract attention, and elicited this reply:” [Wikipedia]
I did suggest it, but not on that ground… Why I chose the name is not clear, but I know what thoughts were in my mind. There is a poem of John Donne, written just before his death, which I know and love. From it a quotation: “As West and East / In all flatt Maps—and I am one—are one, / So death doth touch the Resurrection.” That still does not make a Trinity, but in another, better known devotional poem Donne opens, “Batter my heart, three person’d God;—.”[Wikipedia]