I can’t believe I missed this piece by Elizabeth Scalia on a bit of science that completely explains a dogma of the Church
All of that changed for me when I took a class in anatomy and physiology. As marvelous as it was to learn about how “wonderfully and fearfully” we are made — what with blood cells forming and fading, and bones and tissue becoming oxygenated and cleansed via blood and breath — nothing presented in the class coaxed an audible reaction from me until we studied the process of microchimerism. As soon as the professor introduced the process, my Catholic bell was rung: “But that completely explains the Assumption!” I said aloud in the midst of my startled classmates. The professor stared at me for a moment with a puzzled expression and said, “Oka-a-ay, anyway, the thing about microchimerism…”
The thing about microchimerism is that it so profoundly explains and justifies our dogma that it should be included in our Mariological catechesis, where people can both appreciate a demonstration of how science and religion can complement and complete each other, and marvel in awestruck wonder that our Church had reasoned out this reality long ago and without the aid of microscopes. In the simplest of terms, microchimerism is the process by which a smattering of cells live within a host body but are completely distinct from it. In human fetomaternal microchimerism (or “fetal cell microchimerism”), every child leaves within his mother a microscopic bit of himself — every pregnancy, brought to delivery or not, leaves a small amount of its own cells within the body of the mother — and those cells remain within her forever.
As the only practicing Catholic in the classroom mentioned above, can you blame me for my gratified outburst? Microchimerism explained for me the very whys and wherefores of a dogma that had previously seemed like little more than piety on a sentimental rampage, leaving me too cowed to care. Suddenly, it all made sense: A small amount of Christ Jesus’ cells remained within Mary, for the whole of her life. Where we Catholics have a limited experience of Christ’s flesh commingling within our own upon reception of the holy Eucharist, Mary was a true tabernacle within which the Divinity did continually reside.
It follows that His mother’s body, containing cellular traces of the Divinity (and a particle of God is God, entire) could not be permitted to decay, either. The science makes the theology accessible, because, suddenly, there is no need for guessing: at her Dormition, Our Lady’s body, holding Christ within it, could not remain on earth; of course, it would have to join itself to Christ in the heavenly dimension.
I maintain that the Catholic faith is truth and all objective truth including scientific truth (as opposed to scientific theory, still valuable as a basis for experimentation and the pursuit of knowledge but not the same a proven truth) will fit it like a glove.
The fact that Mary carried a part of Christ with her for her entire life at least to my mind also explains the Immaculate Conception and much else that all came about because of the events we celebrate this week.