“With your hand you…planted our ancestors…and made them flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land…It was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.” (Psalm 44:2-3)
Anticipating Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, this year I am not so much thinking of infants as I am ancestors. Their lives were precious too.
Recently, I was looking into how many ancestors a person might have. Because many past cultures allowed marriage of cousins or second cousins, the number is variable—back to the time of Christ, it could be several thousand or tens of thousands. But if you count back to your great-great grandparents (there were only 16 of them), you realize that you are sitting at the peak of a people-pyramid that widens so fast that, after about 12 generations, the “great-great’s” can’t fit on this page. The grandparents or great-grandparents you have seen are only the tip of an iceberg sitting in the ocean of the past.
By far, most of your ancestors did their reading (if they could read), or sewing, or whittling by firelight or sun shining through open shutters. All but a small fraction of your forebears woke up, not to an alarm clock, but to the braying of a donkey, church bells, wind in their cornfields, a wartime bugle, or the town crier…