Ecclesiastes says: There is a time to be born and a time to die.

[…] May we also receive the grace to be born at the right time and die at the opportune moment.

[…] It is necessary to inquire about what is the birth that happens at a right time and what is the death that comes at an opportune moment.

I believe that a birth is right and not out of its time when – as Isaiah says – someone has conceived out of the fear of God and through the travails of the soul in birth generates his own salvation.

For we are in a certain sense our own parents, when through the good disposition of our soul and complete freedom of our will we form and generate and bring ourselves to the light.

We do this by the fact that we bring God into ourselves, having become children of God, children of virtue, and children of the Most High.

On the other hand, we bring ourselves into the world out of due time and form ourselves in an imperfect and immature manner when there has not been formed in us the image of Christ, to use the words of the Apostle.

For it is necessary that the man of God be without reproach and perfect.

If the manner in which we are born at the right time is evident, equally clear to all is the way we die at the opportune moment and the way every moment was, in the eyes of Saint Paul, opportune for a good death.

For he cries out in his writing, pronouncing in a certain way an oath when he says: For your sake we are being slain all the day long. And we bear within our very selves the sentence of death.

Furthermore, the manner in which Paul dies each day is not obscure; he never lives in sin.

He always mortifies the members of the flesh and ever bears within him the mortification of the body of Christ, for he is always crucified with Christ and never lives for himself but ever has Christ living in him.

This in my opinion was the favourable death which was leading to true life.

In fact, he says: I will put to death and give life; in order that he may persuade others that it is really a gift of God to be dead to sin and to be alive in the Spirit.

The divine word – precisely because he has put to death – promises to give life.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On Ecclesiastes 6 (PG 44:701-703); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Tuesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2

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