To be born or to consent to life

“From Birth”


Volume XXVII, Vol. 2, 2022, €20.99


communion. International Catholic Review

No. 284, 2022, €14

Sign of the times, two reviews – ThéophiLyonthe journal of the faculties of theology and philosophy of the Catholic University of Lyon and communionthe international catholic journal – at the same time look at the question of birth, from a more philosophical perspective for the first, more theological for the second, while opening up a space for poetry “which is a way of expressing what no prose deploying concepts can claim to grasp: the event of birth as it is given to the one who is born and to those who receive it”justifies Émilie Tardivel in her editorial.

But why return now to a theme that is not new in philosophy? Because we live in a time when “the objectification of birth” makes it lose its character as an event, writes Émilie Tardivel.

“A child has been born to us”

Hannah Arendt, quoted several times, said the sublime character of this little Gospel sentence: “A child was born to us. »“Are we still capable of hearing and welcoming this ‘good’ news in its dimension of promise and hope, symbolic and imaginary, in a world where birth itself tends to become an existential issue of order? narcissistic and private, that contemporary man tries to control in different ways, this need for control sometimes stemming from a refusal to be born? »asks Christine Bouvier-Müh in ThéophiLyon.

The psychoanalytic philosopher indeed notes that some of our contemporaries say they were born ” against their will “, mark the refusal of what comes to them from a parent – ​​a first name, a surname, a social or cultural background, even an education or a gender, renounce giving life themselves. , or on the contrary psychically overinvest their desire for a child, “leaving little room for the unexpected, for astonishment likely to favor the reception of otherness”. All these behaviors can be read as so many resistances to consent to life and lead to revisiting not only birth but also all the dimensions linked to it: the origin, the beginning, the reproduction, the gestation, the childbirth, the filiation…

“To be born is not enough”

Several authors refer to the work of Michel Henry to deepen the meaning of a birth that no one has chosen. For the phenomenologist, being born is not just about coming to and into the world. It’s also coming to and in life “that the Life which pre-exists it makes effective”. And this entry into life goes far beyond the moment of birth: “The birth that is beyond us is what all the rest of our life only responds to”writes Carla Canullo in ThéophiLyon, which recalls these few lines of Pablo Neruda: “To be born is not enough. It is to be reborn that we were born. Everyday. »

“These verses seal, in our opinion, the secret of birth. We are born to be reborn, which would not be possible if life itself were not constantly reborn. comments the philosopher who continues by asking herself: But how are we reborn? » A question that echoes the one that Nicodemus addresses to Jesus, and which is therefore not so naive as that: “How can a man be born, being old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? » (John 3, 4).

The Word “took the trouble to be born”

It is in the light of the birth of Jesus that theological reflection illuminates the meaning of any birth, since the Word was “brought the trouble to be born”. “In doing so, he changed not this passage itself but the way men look at him. “He sanctified the newborns,” says Irenaeus, and thereby tamed the fear that surrounded their coming into the world, and humanized the beliefs and practices that this fear had aroused”. writes Marie-Hélène Congourdeau in communion.

“To be born is always an adventure, but we are no longer alone to live it: Christ lived it too; he went this way,” continues the specialist of the Fathers of the Church. We will not have too many lives to understand the meaning and depth of this novelty: the Word became flesh and it is through Him that we come to Life.


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