Nov 3, 2014
The trial Jewish women dreaded most was barrenness. Not to be able to conceive was considered not only tragic but also shameful. Let us recall the case of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. God had solemnly promised to give him a large progeny (Gen. 15:5) but his wife was barren, and had reached an age when a woman’s body is “defeated”. Biologically speaking, she could no longer become a mother. Profoundly grieved, Sarah, decided to “lend” her slave maid, Hagar, to her husband, so that she might become mother by “proxy”. Indeed, the latter gave birth to a son called Ismael. Better a child from a maid that no child at all. After all, she would be indirectly involved because her own husband was the father of that baby. Motherhood by proxy was the only choice left her.
God, in His goodness, then promised Abraham to give him a son. His response was laughter (17:17): he was close to a hundred years; Sarah was in her nineties. While in her tent, she overheard God’s repeating this promise to Abraham, she too “laughed” (18:12) – a fact that she promptly denied. Indeed, was that the proper response to a divine promise?
The noble desire to have a child is an expression of the deep set conviction that love, by its very essence, should be fruitful. Sterility is experienced as a proof that “love has failed.”
The New Testament, while not only fully endorsing the essential bond existing between love and fruitfulness, broadens and deepens it by showing that fruitfulness is not limited to the biological sphere. Beautiful as the latter is, there is such a thing as spiritual fruitfulness - the beauty of which is not only highly valued but joyfully chosen and embraced by those who “have become eunuchs for the Kingdom of God“. Let us but think of all the innumerable children that God gave to St. Francis of Assisi and to St. Teresa of Avila. But it must be said emphatically that this spiritual fruitfulness in no way derogates the gift and beauty of biological fruitfulness. However not only is the latter “earth- and time bound”, (for in heaven “neque nubent, neque nubentur”), but moreover, once the human body has risen from death and been spiritualized, the overwhelming superiority of spiritual fruitfulness will be revealed in all its glory.
Looking at our “culture” (that Dietrich von Hildebrand dubbed anti-culture), we immediately realize that by “freely” choosing to cut off “love” from procreation inevitably means to opt for death. Any type of “love” between a husband and a wife that cold- bloodedly refuses to become parents, has sealed its own doom.