The mystery of birth fills our existence with joy, hope and wonder. But even more, it moves us to reflect on the mystery of the positivity of being and on the nature of gift.
Four levels of a mystery
The act of giving birth is a very profound mystery which reflects, in a certain way, the mystery of God.
There is, in the first place, the biological level, probably the most obvious, but in no way banal. Life, being the fruit of a loving union between a father and a mother, is enabled and comes about through bodily existence. Our very own bodies continuously remind us of our origin, of the fact that we are “given”, “entrusted to ourselves”. Our bodies remind us that our lives are given from the moment of conception and throughout the arc of our historical existence.
The body directs us to the ontological level of the mystery of birth, it further leads us to the question in regards to the mystery of our being. We come into being through the union of two persons, a man and a woman, but we are distinct from them. Upon further reflection on its origin, our coming into existence reveals that our being is uniquely ours and at the same time that it is not: it is what we share in common with everything that exists. Being with the other carries with it a task: to discover who we are while remaining in wonder at the fact that we exist.
Our bodies and our being enclose a spiritual meaning. Ours is the birth of a spirit, that is, of someone who becomes conscious of himself only through the free and loving dialogue with another. The human spirit grows from the moment that it listens, dialogues, and dwells with the fountain that generates it. This growing takes the form of the beautiful moments of life, as well as in the moments of failure and drama. All of the so called moments of new birth that we experience, like falling in love, the becoming a father or a mother, the experience of being forgiven, and so on, are the expressions of the first and original birth, its new flourishing.
The spiritual meaning opens us to the ultimate level of the mystery of birth: the theological level. Let us look at the surprise generated in us upon the announcement of a new baby being born: this surprise is essentially a sign of the relationship with the ultimate source of being, who gave life to the baby. Irreducible to its parents or to the laws of biology, the baby is born within a solitude which no human company can ever eliminate. This solitude is not a form of marginalization but the sign of a very profound communion. From the very beginning of life and in every successive instant following its origin, the baby is placed in a dialogue with the ultimate origin of existence, that which theology calls “God”. Our very existence is the movement from and towards eternal being, which accompanies us daily, even if we often do not recognize its presence.
The mystery of birth offers us the possibility to better understand the unity of our being in terms of gift. The widespread and positivistic idea of our culture – that birth and human existence itself are merely the fruit of chance or of necessity – does not take into account the surprise that is proper to the existence of life, of the existence of our spirit and of its irreducible wholeness. However the meaning of gift is clearly not obvious.
Our culture, which is convinced that fragmentation is more primordial than unity, does not see how the relationship between being and existing, between God and the world, and between men themselves, is the actualizing of a gift. It reduces birth and the gift to obvious things which any man can do. The fact that biotechnology, to reduce our suffering, permits us to manipulate ever more life from its origin, seems to be a proof, the perfect justification, that that which counts most we make by ourselves. In this perspective we reduce the gift to a simple prize to offer someone or to something to purchase (a power, forgiveness, an esteem).
Instead of consisting in a series of fragmented and unconnected pieces, our life is born from and is called towards unity. The mystery of birth places us in front of this beauty without boundaries: the unity of being – and thus of God and of man in the concreteness of existence – has the form of a gift and the gift reveals the permanence of unity.
The concrete universal
Becoming flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the eternal Logos of the Father comes to us in the form of a concrete person. His Incarnation, which is fulfilled only when Christ returns to the Father and sends us his Spirit, is the archetype of gift. In this way, He, the concrete universal, reveals the true meaning of gift and reveals to us the nature of God as gift.
His eternity is gift, always identical and always new. God is life who gives without limits: the Son is born eternally from the Father, who confirms his response of love giving with him, again, the exuberant fruit of the Holy Spirit. But God does not stop here. God calls us into being, to participate of this mysterious birth in which he wants nothing else than our reception of him, his love, with the gratuity that is only proper to him.
The gift of Christ to man does not eliminate all of human suffering and does not solve all of man’s problems. He, however, permits the encounter between the divine and human freedom: this encounter is what we call drama, which always takes flesh anew in history. He who lives this drama without making calculations, remaining rooted in the joy that is proper to the experience of being continuously born anew, grows and becomes ever more a beloved son who walks held up by the hands of the Father. Through suffering, in a freedom without end, he discovers with certainty and courage a humility that, from the heart of the world, cares for, affirms and invokes the truth of being.
These reflections are developed in Antonio López, Gift and the Unity of Being
Stefano Zecchi, the well known journalist and professor of aesthetics at the State University of Milano, wrote that: “for Don Giussani, loving beauty meant loving a truth that is constructive. Beauty is always a force that proposes, builds and never regresses, is never nihilistic, it has always been an idea of invention and construction of possible worlds”.
To build. During a period of time when everything seems to unravel, what is more necessary than to construct? Don Giussani was a great builder because he loved beauty and sought it out in every aspect of reality and in the depths of every expression of human creativity: from art, to music to literature. This search for beauty was the ideal that moved all of his actions, so that he would capture the attention of whomever he met and so invite them to participate in the movement directed towards the building of the kingdom of God. He was a great educator because he invited us to participate in this inexhaustible search. In order to educate, to construct, to bear fruit in life, it is necessary to live in light of that virtue, which Charles Peguy described as being the “faith that God prefers”: in order to educate, in order to build it is necessary to have hope. Our goal in life is to collaborate in the construction of the kingdom of God, and it is only an ideal so great which gives dignity to our being priests, to our being missionaries, to our being Christians -with the awareness that, ultimately, it is not our efforts that construct reality and that recreate it continuously.
As Pope Francis said recently, the greatest of Jesus’ miracles is that of “making all things new: this is what he does for my life, for your life and for our lives. Making all things new. That which He makes new in our lives is the motive of our hope. Christ who makes new all of the marvelous realities of creation is the motive of our hope. And this hope does not delude because He is faithful and cannot deny Himself. This is the virtue of hope”.
Cardinal Ratzinger once said: “The promise of hope is a gift that has been already given in a certain way, and that we wait to receive from Him alone who can truly give it”. The pages that follow hope to bear witness to how our life is knitted with the awaiting of this gift and how hope can flourish within even the most adverse and diverse of life’s circumstances. Finally, how it educates us to the search for beauty, that towards which we are all destined.