Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pregnancy as Kenosis

I haven't spent the last ten years of my life in the company of theologians or theology students without overhearing a few ideas. Which may explain why, while throwing up all of my breakfast and then some more for good measure, the connection between pregnancy and kenosis occurred to me.

For those whose Greek is a little rusty: Kenosis means "to empty."

In my experience of child-bearing, I am becoming intimately acquainted with the idea of emptying. I'm told some women experience "morning sickness," others feel "nauseous," some smug, lucky ladies skate through hardly aware of a thing. I throw up three or four times a day and have been doing this now for nearly six weeks.

I have the routine down pat; it's one of the few things I'm keeping down. In the morning, I know that breakfast is just an exercise in futility. What goes down comes up. Lunch varies things up. The blander the better generally: Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup (the plain kind – don't get fancy with your home made, or chunky, no – plain) . There is generally a period of afternoon unrest. Lately, dinner has become a real possibility but fried things, spicy things, things that taste nice in general: a no go.

The theological concept of kenosis employs emptying in describing the idea of Christ humbling himself to take on our human nature in the incarnation. This serves as a model for mankind in that we should “empty” ourselves and our own will to take on the divine nature becoming more like Christ. This is not a simple or pleasant process. Saint John of the Cross describes this in his work, “The Dark Night of the Soul” (as you can see from the title, he really sells it there). I'm grossly simplifying kenosis, from here theologians spill ink parsing out time, space, energies and essences; slipping down the slippery slopes toward one heresy or another and I lose interest.

I'm thinking that there are features intrinsic to the nine month gestation period that lend themselves to an emptying of ourselves to prepare for the incarnation of another. Certainly, there is a humbling that comes with having to pay this much attention to small processes like feeding yourself and bowel movements.

Perhaps during my next trip to the toilet, I'll thank God for the physical process that so beautifully mirrors spiritual movement that is preparing me for motherhood. But really, that may be asking too much for such a moment.


  1. Beautiful Danish. I didnt think bowl movements could sound so poetic.

  2. hi dana,
    this is beth's friend melissa. beth sent me this post because i'm a religious studies major so i love theology. and vomit? i told my mom about it and she said she had the same situation with me, except the vomiting lasted all nine months... but i mean she forgot enough that she hasn't old me until now, 21 years later.
    p.s. your blog is great!