Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Annunciation & Miscarried Babies

Tomorrow, the Annunciation of Our Lord, marks the annual celebration of our Lord’s incarnation, when He joined Himself to human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. As such, the Annunciation also serves as an appropriate time to remember in our prayers Christian parents of miscarried or stillborn children. We will pray for parents during the prayers of the church. The Church of God rejoices together and weeps together. Our only hope is in Him who was neither miscarried in the womb nor stillborn in the grave, the Firstborn of the Virgin and the Firstborn from the Dead.

This fits well with our meditations on Holy Baptism. If Baptism saves (which it does), what of children who die without having the opportunity to be brought into the Lord’s Kingdom through the waters of Baptism? Lutheran father Martin Chemnitz wrote:
Are, then, the children of believers who die before birth or in birth damned?
By no means, but since our children, brought to the light by divine blessing, are, as it were, given into our hands and at the same time means are offered, or it is made possible for the covenant of grace to be applied to them,t here indeed that very solemn divine statement applies: The man-child, the flesh of whose foreskin is not circumcised on the eighth day, his soul shall be blotted out from [his] people (Gen. 17:14). Hence the Lord met Moses on his way and wanted to kill him, because he had neglected to circumcise [his] son (Ex. 4:24-26). But when those means are not given us—as when in the Old Testament a male died before the eighth day of circumcision—likewise when they, who, born in the desert in the interval of 40 years, could not be circumcised because of daily harassment by enemies and constant wanderings, died uncircumcised, Josh. 5:5-6, and when today infants die before they are born—in such cases, the grace of God is not bound to the Sacraments, but those infants are to be brought and commended to Christ in prayers. And one should not doubt that those prayers are heard, for they are made in the name of Christ. Jn 16:23; Gen. 17:7; Matt. 19:14. Since, then, we cannot bring infants as yet unborn to Christ through Baptism, therefore we should do it through pious prayers. Parents are to be put in mind of this, and if perhaps such a case should occur, they are to be encouraged with this comfort.” (Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion, 119-120)

While neglecting Baptism or needlessly postponing it are different matters, Christian parents have this comfort: before babies can be brought to the Lord in Holy Baptism, they are brought to Him even while still in the womb through prayer and through the hearing of the Word at the Divine Service and at family devotions.

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