March 22 is World Water Day, a relatively new day in the global calendar. Three days later, on March 25th, the Church celebrates an ancient feast, the Annunciation of the Lord, and with it, the Incarnation. Throughout the centuries, the faithful from all walks of life have made meaning of this feast, whose origins date back beyond the Council of Ephesus in 431. Popular religious practices thrived around “Lady Day.” For example, farmers would place an image of the Annunciation in the seed grain in order to ensure a bountiful harvest. Those predicting the weather also found this feast telling (“When Gabriel does the message bring, return the swallows, comes the spring.”). And the meaning-making never stops, as we continue on our journey through time. Since in our own time, the feast of the Annunciation comes soon after World Water Day, and given that the Incarnation happened in the waters of Mary’s womb, water is on my mind. It is also in my body, and in my bones. 60% of an adult body, after all, is water. A newborn carries even more water, about 78%. And even our bones are watery, almost 31%. According to the USGS, our lungs are about 83% water; while our skin contains 64% water. In a very real sense, then, the Incarnation might be said to be about God embracing and becoming H2O. In a lovely coincidence, the account of the second-century Protoevangelium of James, and following it, some Byzantine depictions, put Mary at a well at the moment of the Annunciation. But even more than God becoming human and 78% H2O as a newborn, the Incarnation is also about God becoming cosmic dust, and about God becoming genetic kin to all that is, since humans share with all that exists on planet earth a common genetic ancestry.
For me at least, these contemporary insights are wonderous. They also put in perspective a persistent emphasis in some ecclesial circles on the importance of the maleness of Christ’s body. I do not deny that Jesus in all likelihood had XY-chromosomes (rather than XX, or one of the genetic variants, such as XO or XXY), but His body will also have been almost 80% water as a newborn, and 60% water as an adult. More importantly, as a human being, he will have been genetic kin to all that existed on planet earth prior to His Incarnation, and yes, He will have carried some stardust within Him, too.
And on that cheerful note: A Blessed Solemnity of God’s deep Incarnation, of God becoming one of us, all of us, and kin to everything that is.