Sunday, 28 October 2012
The Two Shall Become One
In some of my earlier posts I have referred to the occasional experience of a jolt of insight or appreciation when reading this or that passage of Scripture. It is a rather wonderful thing, and I know I’m not alone in having experienced it.
This reflection follows on from my previous post about the Natural Law. In particular, I’d like to concentrate on the words of Christ in Matthew, Chapter 19 ("The two shall become one"), which echo the words of Genesis 2:24 ("And they become one flesh").
In the early 1980s I studied natural family planning in some depth, and taught it for a short time before other commitments meant that I could not continue to do so. One of the many interesting facts I learned was how recently the existence of the ovum had come to be known for certain.
The ovarian follicle was first discovered by Reinier de Graaf in 1672, but it was not until 1826 that the scientist Karl Ernst von Baer discovered the mammalian ovum. The first human ovum was described by Allen in 1928.
A bit more background, just for the record, but I’m sure you are all aware of this. All our individual cells contain 46 chromosomes, with the exception of the gametes, which each contain only 23. When the sperm and ovum fuse, they cease what would in any case have been their very fleeting existence. It is a little as though they have died; and yet in their "dying" the two have become one.
That "one", that single cell, is composed of a new, unique 46-chromosome combination, which means that it could not possibly be a cell of either of its parents' bodies. And it is certainly not dead. It is intensely alive, and it is a new individual being of the human species, its body consisting of one plenipotent cell.
Jesus was teaching and reinforcing the meaning of marriage nearly two thousand years ago. The Genesis account dates from several centuries before that, and in its unwritten origins it probably reaches back into the mists of tradition. In those times it appeared to be self-evident that while it was the mother’s body that nurtured the new life, it was the father who generated it. And yet there was this theme, from the beginning and from Christ the Word of God: the two shall become one. At the heart of marriage, and at the heart of its generative power.
This is an insight that Christ’s audience could not have known; but He knew it even as He spoke, and we know it now. It is an additional layer of richness in His words, revealed to our more recent centuries.