Blessing for pregnant women and unborn children: Spirituality in a sensitive phase.
A challenge for the churches as institution of society
During the period of the churchfathers Western Christian theology was influenced by Greek philosophy, adopting the negative valuation of the womb as, according to Plato, “roaming about everywhere in the body and causes all kind of diseases.” (Timaios 91 c-d).
The Old Testament, however, is ambivalent. It tells about the impurity of women menstruating and giving birth, but also knows the “blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.” (Gen 49:25). In the New Testament, Jesus had no hostile opinion towards women.
The second undesirable development in the appreciation of the process of childbirth has been the doctrine of original sin, from which only baptism would liberate. That is why baptising newborn infants was not only necessary for salvation, it also took over the part of welcoming the newborn and therefore threw childbirth as a creative process into the background. This is happening still today. In the Eastern Orthodox Church the concern has not been about salvation of sins but about sanctification. The power of definition only belongs to men. An exception to the historic development of traditional theology, Hildegard von Bingen with her vision from a child in a womb provides an example of affirming a woman’s role in the creative process of childbirth (12th century).
Thanks to feminist theology and thanks to pre- and perinatal research, attention is now turning towards childbirth and to life in the womb, regarding both as part of a creative process in which women are engaged as co-creators. The female body is not considered impure. It is the place of appearance of the Divine, the encounter with the Holy.
Pregnancy as a border-line experience, changing of identity, devotion, and as interaction between mother and child is a sensitive time for all concerned. Until now this has been acknowledged primarily by freelance midwifes in pregnancy and childbirth groups by creating empowering and healing circles—holy circles.
While developing a theology of childbirth I created a ritual/liturgy which transfers the theological consequences of the new prenatal psychology and a fair-to-women-theology into a blessing of pregnant women, newborn children, midwifes and fathers.
This ritual/liturgy with its corporeal-mental (psychosomatic) encouragement focuses on the power of the pregnant woman and her trust in the presence of the Divine as well as on the child being surrounded by an atmosphere of the Divine spirit. The corporeal nature of this blessing ritual/liturgy embodies this focus.
Following lecture, I plan to present this ritual/liturgy with its texts and songs.