Preparing for the New Year

This is the time of year when every broadcaster, newspaper or online magazine is full of retrospectives of the year 2017. Several also include suggestions for making 2018 the year when we’ll all be slimmer, wealthier and in every way more wonderful than we were in 2017. Trouble is, it doesn’t work like that. A few people will indeed manage to learn a new language, shed a few pounds or otherwise fulfil some personal ambition, but most of us will reach the end of January realising that we are pretty much the same person we were in September 2017, just a little older and possibly a little crankier. So, is it all stuff and nonsense? Can we prepare for the New Year in any meaningful way, and does it matter anyway?

Certainly, the advent of a new year does provide an impetus for change. There is something about its untarnished quality that is immensely attractive. It is full of possibilities; and the fact that New Year’s Day falls on the eighth day of the Christmas Octave is highly suggestive (please see some of my earlier posts on the meaning of the octave if you don’t know why). Some people like to mark the New Year by apologizing to others for the wrongs they have done them. Unfortunately, the apologies on Social Media don’t always read as the writers intend so that I find myself wondering whether the apology is meant to absolve the one making it rather than put things right with the one receiving it. Saying sorry to God takes everything a step further. It is an essential step because without recognizing the fact of sin in our lives, we can hardly expect to be set free from it and become open to the grace God offers us every minute. Real change can only come about when we respond to that grace. And in case you think I am talking rarefied spirituality here, let me assure you I mean something with immediate and practical effect in our lives. To live a virtuous life is no mean achievement, but it can only be done by grace.

I like the fact that on 1 January we begin re-reading the Rule of St Benedict. The Prologue opens with a call to prayer and to a renewal of obedience — listening — to God. That surely is the best way of preparing for the New Year. Everything else is secondary. Those New Year resolutions that rarely last beyond January may help us identify areas of our lives that need some attention, but they are scarcely important in themselves. Nor is New Year’s Day our only opportunity to change. If you think about it, every moment is new. Every moment is potentially transformative. Every moment God is doing a new thing — if we let him. The old saying is true, ‘Without Him we cannot; without us He will not.’ If we make only one resolution for 2018, let it be to allow God to act in and through our lives.

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5 thoughts on “Preparing for the New Year”

  1. Apart from the lovely concert from Vienna the whole concept of a new year passes me by. The tediously long two day total shutdown of everything in Scotland, is equally tedious, something of course not experienced in England.

    Do I sound like a curmudgeon probably

    Not known for my cheerful nature.

    However as is the social custom I wish you both every blessing as the year turns.

    Oh I forgot I can put up my steam train calendar and change my cardigan, let joy be unconfined

  2. May we with God’s grace in 2018 cherish each moment and allow him to transform us and work in our lives. Wishing your community a Very Blessed New Year.

  3. As often seems to be the case (since I turned 65 and as the clock ticked over to a new day and all my medication was deemed no longer safe) I am being battered by side effects from a new drug and suffering brain electrical zaps as I suffer withdrawal effects from one that I am glad to see th back of. I will be glad to get past New Year. As always I keep you both in my daily prayers. Blessings.

  4. Stuart, some of us in England two day shutdown would be bliss. No longer would my wife and daughter rush to the sales having already blitzed the shop s before Christmas to buy ‘something’ to wear for the big Day!!!

    At age 70, for me each new year requires reflection , thanks to God and hope. For both Digitalnun and you, health has been an issue an I wish you both and indeed everybody a better year.

    Enjoy you train calendar and a very Happy New Year to everybody.

  5. Thank you Bob, been in my bed struck down by an infection as is often the case. I wake today dehydrated, sore and heavy and may yet be forced back to bed. My wife isn’t well today either.

    No matter how grumpy I may have appeared I do rejoice in the goodness of God. I have lived with chronic life threatening illness since 1975 when it first raised its head. Several more problems have been added over the years much of it genetic – asthma, diabetes etc. And depression which doesn’t run in the family that collapsed my life after duagnosis in 1999.

    I am glad of them all in truth as each draws me into a closer dependency on God. Without them all, ulcerative colitis included, I wouldn’t have had such faith nor such an easy transition into the Catholic Church.

    Here it makes even greater sense as I offer my little suffering to God to be bound in that mysterious way with that of the beloved.

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