And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)
Nicodemus said to Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4)
We are born into this world. We tend to think death is leaving this world. In the 3rd Century, Origen, the greatest biblical commentator of his day, offered a thought for Christians which changes our understanding of this life and death polarity (The kernel for this idea comes from Hans Urs van Bathasar, ORIGEN: SPIRIT AND FIRE, p 278). Origen saw that we all are born naturally from our mother’s womb, but for Christians this is not our only birth. We are born again in baptism of the Holy Spirit. In this spiritual birth, Origen sees our embracing Christ by faith to be a new conception – this time in the womb of the Church. We don’t return to our birthing mother’s womb, but enter into the womb of our new mother – the Church (see John 3:3-8). Origen terms our life on earth as a ‘pregnancy’. Life turns out to be another gestation period. Our next birth is in the Kingdom. [Read A Parable of Death and Life to get a similar idea from the modern world.]
The birthing process is messy, involves pain and yet it is the only way to new life. Imagining our Christian life in this world as part of a pregnancy – the Church’s and we are in her womb when we live on earth – might help us understand some of the suffering we experience here – it is a necessary part of our gestation, our maturation and development. This life is not the final stop, the goal, the destination, home. It turns out to be a time of growth and maturation. Somehow life in this world is a necessary part of our development in the womb in order to be born alive in the world to come.
As the embryo cannot comprehend all that is happening to it in the womb, cannot understand it all as necessary for survival beyond the womb, neither can we fully comprehend all of our life experiences. We can, in faith, trust that they are part of God’s plan for our salvation. The experiences of life are not unimportant – they help us mature and develop into a full human being. And then we can remember what it meant for God to become fully human including the cross, the grave and then resurrection to eternal life. God did not spare Himself from entering the womb of a mother or of the world.