Tuesday, December 12, 2006

December 12, 2006 (L1) Serine

Serine - the Baptism in the Jordan (L1)

December 12, 2006

Today in the Western Hemisphere is the great feast of our Lady of Guadalupe - the first appearance of Mary in the New World, not quite 40 years after its discovery. It seems somehow fitting that today I turn to the Luminous Mysteries, which (since their proposal by John Paul II in 2002) are a kind of "new world" of meditation for those who say the Rosary. These five new mysteries examine the "Public Life" of our Lord, the stories of which comprise by far the largest portion of the Gospels.

And, as I took the "ring-structures" of certain amino acids to represent the "other side" of the Glorious Mysteries, and the "hydrophobic" stay-together side-chains of certain other amino acids to represent the closely related character of the Joyfuls, I must now set forth the poetic design I have arranged for the other ten. Two of these have already been assigned based on other considerations, and if you are keeping track (because you have a chart of the 20 amino acids) you will immediately see that there is a set of exactly eight amino acids with one common property: they all have side-chains which are hydrophilic - that is, water-loving. These like to associate with the ubiquitous water of the living cell, and stay "outward" where those with hydrophobic side-chains stay "inward". This hydrophilic character, then, reflects the "outward" character of these Mysteries of the Public Life of Jesus.

In fact, while John Paul used the term "Luminous" for the five new mysteries of the Public Life before the Passion, one might almost as easily use the term "Hydrophilic" or "The Mysteries of Water" - since this common, critical, marvelous substance plays an important (and sometimes dramatic) role in all five of them. Elsewhere (see the index at right) I have written some thoughts about the amazing properties of water; here I should recall the famous words of St. Francies from his "Canticle of the Creatures":
Praised be my Lord for our sister water, who is very serviceable to us, and humble and precious and clean.
[from the Poetry Appendix in the Liturgy of the Hours]
Bear these in mind, then, for they provide many clues to matters which I can only hint at now.

So, let us proceed with today's mystery, the Baptism in the Jordan, to which I have associated the amino acid called Serine.

Serine (abbreviated Ser or S)
RNA Codes:
Like Leucine and one other, Serine has six codes. Four are those which begin UC, followed by the "wobble base". The other two begin with AG, followed by either pyrimidine (U or C).

Serine is the first of the amino acids we have explored to have an oxygen in its side-chain - there are six others to come. Its side chain is the simple -CH2OH which is a methyl alcohol group. You might wish to compare it to Alanine (J2) which uses the -CH3 methyl group; its simplicity hints at the starting point of the public ministry.

The Baptism of Jesus has its own separate feast day, but in the liturgy it is tied together with the Epiphany (which also has its own feast day) and with the Wedding at Cana (which has no feast but does have a mystery, L2, to be considered tomorrow). The common note of these three is "epiphany" in its lower-case sense - that is, a showing or a revealing of the divinity of Christ. Here, the revleaing is the testimony of John, the voice from the sky, and the appearance of the dove, which once announced the ending of the Flood. Now a different announcement is made, which we still hear at every Mass: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sins of the kosmos."(see Jn 1:29) But there is much more here than just a washing, or purification, no matter how severe the pollution. There is a re-newing of life.

In the mystery of the Baptism, the water which "washes" Jesus is itself purified - but it is given a new and mystical power. Deep, deep, is this mystery, tied so dramatically to our very topic here! Massive volumes of study, representing centuries of research, have pondered how the proteins of life take their shapes - and the single great answer to be seen on every page is WATER. Yes, there are other properties which give rise to protein structure; we shall hear more about one eventually. But consider the great division of the classes of amino acids: hydrophilic and hydrophobic! At every point in the protein, one must consider: does this amino acid there avoid the water, or mingle in the water? For this is the primary determinant in its shape.

Yes, in Biology, water is the basis of natural life. So, because of this Mystery, water is now also the basis of supernatural Life. The shapes of the proteins are important, an error in specification can be determined down to a precision of atoms. The precision of this new Life is likewise measured: for Jesus said "Not the smallest letter, or even part of a letter of the Law shall pass away..." And this Life is brought about by means of water. We renew, and re-affirm, our own baptism at the Easter ceremonies, and most dramatically recalled by the blessing of the water at the Vigil.

Let us then fervently (which means boiling!) renew our baptismal vows as we recite this mystery, and then ponder our baptism as a beginning of new Life, a life in Water and the Spirit. It is the same simple, natural, wonderful water which once poured over Jesus Himself, and which dictates the shapes of our inmost physical being - and which now raises our sight to our proper place - a place in a far greater Structure, "built upon the foundation of the apostles"... (See Eph 2:19-20) Ah, yes - and there is so much more to say about this; St. Paul might truly be called the first biologist of Supernatural Life! But for now, it is better to think, and pray.


Post a Comment

<< Home