We Are Our Own Birth Givers

“Now, it is certainly required that what is subject to change be in a sense always coming to birth. In mutable nature nothing can be observed which is always the same. Being born, in the sense of constantly experiencing change, does not come about as the result of external initiative, as is the case with the birth of the body, which takes place by chance. Such a birth occurs by choice. We are in some manner our own parents, giving birth to ourselves by our own free choice in accordance with whatever we wish to be, whether male or female, mould­ing ourselves to the teaching of virtue or vice.”

We can most certainly enter upon a better birth into the realm of light, however much the unwilling tyrant is dis­tressed, and we can be seen with pleasure and be given life by the parents of this goodly offspring, even though it is contrary to the design of the tyrant. (The rational faculties are what become the “parents of. . . virtue.”)…

I am speaking of that kind of birth in which free will serves as the midwife, deliver­ing the child amid great pain. For no one causes grief to his antagonist unless he exhibits in himself those marks which give proof of his victory over the other.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, Book 2, Chapter 5.

In this beautiful passage above, St. Gregory of Nyssa is commenting on the birth of Moses. St. Gregory teaches us that we human beings are, in a sense, always coming to birth. Whether to a dead and earth bound life or whether to the life in God is by our freewill which St. Gregory describes as the midwife birthing us to the life we have chosen.

In many ways it is fitting that the civic calendar starts anew today and many Orthodox Christians, including the Coptic Orthodox Church, will celebrate the feast of Nativity very shortly. In this coming year we, by our free will as pointed out by St. Gregory, will choose what kind of life we will be born into. With the feast of Nativity around the corner we should remember that St. Paul describes being in labour pains to form Christ in the Galatians,

“My little children, for whom I labour in birth again until Christ is formed in you”

Galatians 4.19

Thus we see that in this coming feast and as the horizon of a new civic year, we can give birth to Christ in our lives. We can become bearers of Christ in such a way that those around us, our families, our colleagues, etc will see Christ manifested forth in our very lives. Amidst a world of chaos, subject to the ebb and flow of financial markets, COVID-19 measures, growing levels of social policing, and unrest, we can have Christ be formed in us and in this way be the light of the world (Mt 5.14-16). In this way we take up the words of the Lord who declares, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother (Mt 12.50).”

No matter the political situation or the social environment of 2021, may we use that midwife of the soul, our freewill, to form Christ in our lives and give stability and Love to a world of chaos and unrest.

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