[The following is an excerpt from the late Pope Benedict XVI’s General Audience from December 28, 2005. On this Feast of the Holy Innocents, he reflects on the second part of Psalm 139, “The Wonder of My Being” (verses 13-24). © Copyright 2005—Libreria Editrice Vaticana.]
1. God turns his loving gaze upon the human being, whose full and complete beginning is reflected upon. He is still an “unformed substance” in his mother’s womb: the Hebrew term used has been understood by several biblical experts as referring to an “embryo”, described in that term as a small, oval, curled-up reality, but on which God has already turned his benevolent and loving eyes (cf. v. 16).
2. To describe the divine action within the maternal womb, the Psalmist has recourse to classical biblical images, comparing the productive cavity of the mother to the “depths of the earth”, that is, the constant vitality of great mother earth (cf. v. 15). First of all, there is the symbol of the potter and of the sculptor who “fashions” and moulds his artistic creation, his masterpiece, just as it is said about the creation of man in the Book of Genesis: “the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground” (Gn 2: 7).
Then there is a “textile” symbol that evokes the delicacy of the skin, the flesh, the nerves, “threaded” onto the bony skeleton. Job also recalled forcefully these and other images to exalt that masterpiece which the human being is, despite being battered and bruised by suffering: “Your hands have formed me and fashioned me . . . Remember that you fashioned me from clay . . . ! Did you not pour me out as milk and thicken me like cheese? With skin and flesh you clothed me, with bones and sinews knit me together” (Jb 10: 8-11).
3. The idea in our Psalm that God already sees the entire future of that embryo, still an “unformed substance”, is extremely powerful. The days which that creature will live and fill with deeds throughout his earthly existence are already written in the Lord’s book of life.
Thus, once again the transcendent greatness of divine knowledge emerges, embracing not only humanity’s past and present but also the span, still hidden, of the future. However, the greatness of this little unborn human creature, formed by God’s hands and surrounded by his love, also appears: a biblical tribute to the human being from the first moment of his existence.