New Year Resolutions

Already the New Year is beginning to look a little bedraggled. Christmas decorations have been taken down, trees lie in wet clumps beside the recycling bins, and the message of peace and goodwill to all has been drowned out by political spats, military coups and horrific violence. Yesterday, while we were celebrating the wonderful solemnity of Epiphany, a few brave spirits dressed in lycra passed by on shiney new bicycles, determination to get fit writ large upon their faces. I shuddered and averted my gaze, because I don’t really do New Year resolutions, certainly not the kind that require effort from lungs and muscles. Instead I read a number of comments about the old tradition of chalking one’s doors for Epiphany, then wondered how many would be observing today as Plough Monday. Away from the countryside, there aren’t many ploughs to bless, though I daresay we could (nearly) all dance to mark what was once the beginning of the agricultural year.

There is, of course, a connection between New Year resolutions, Plough Monday and life as a Benedictine — patience. No New Year resolution brings instant results; even in these days of GM crops and GPS tracking and assessment, farmers still have to wait to see the fruit of their toil; and as for being a Benedictine, that takes a whole lifetime to achieve. Today we read the final section of the Prologue to the Rule of St Benedict in which he assures us that we ‘shall share by patience in the sufferings of Christ, that we may be deemed worthy to share also in his Kingdom’ (RB Prol 50). It is a task that lasts usque ad mortem, until death. In the next 73 chapters Benedict will spell out how to give practical effect to our desire to follow Christ. Some of it will be difficult; some of it clean contrary to our own ideas; but it is advice we can trust because it has produced century after century of holiness. We can safely say of St Benedict that there is nothing weird or whacky about his teaching, no mendacious promises of instant fixes for what is wrong with our souls. He offers us only a plain, perservering pursuit of peace: a life of prayer, work and service in community. It will be costly, but the reward is great.

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6 thoughts on “New Year Resolutions”

  1. I never knew that people in the UK chalked their doors on Epiphany! They still do it here in Bavaria. Three or four children with an adult come round bearing incense, all dressed as kings. They sing a carol, wish all good things to the home and collect for a specified good cause. Then, modern version of chalking, place a sticky strip with *C*M*B* and the year on the lintel, where next year it gets replaced. I love it!

  2. I confess I hadn’t heard of the chalking the door tradition at Epiphany and I am glad to hear it is still used in some parts of the world. May God bless all our homes and those who visit us. Amen

  3. We first saw this in Spain (Zamora), and being at first baffled by the enigmatic inscription, looked into it. Since when, we have adopted the custom at home. We were, also, amused by the choice of what sounded for our purposes an unduly grand word, mansio(nem), assuming it was preferred to domum only to chime with Melchior, but I’ve since learnt that in Roman times, mansiones were not permanent dwellings, but rather, stop-overs for a night or two, in the course of a longer journey. There is sth to muse upon there.

  4. We need to revive Plough Monday in this country. We need to be more closely aware of the origins of what we eat. Maybe that could be a new political idea respecting our farmers

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