Looking Both Ways: 2019

Agiosoritissa Icon, Mother of God, Anonymous, 7th century. Fair Use.
Agiosoritissa Icon, Mother of God, Anonymous, 7th century. Fair Use.

Today is the first day of January, a month which, like the old pagan god Janus, looks two ways, back into the past and forwards into the future. It marks the beginning of the secular year, one more in that vast chain of being that binds us to all who have gone before and all who will come after. It is also the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the oldest Marian feast in the Western liturgical calendar, herself the hinge between the Old and New Covenants; and finally, it is the Octave Day of Christmas, a day that symbolizes both completion and a new beginning. So many glittering paradoxes, so many ideas to try to understand! Perhaps we could think about just one.

The Incarnation marks the intersection of time and eternity, the point at which the Creator enters his creation in a unique way, but it is dependent upon the consent and co-operation of a single human being, Mary. That fact alone should give us pause. It is a rewriting of the Magnificat, as the humility of God meets the greatness of Mary’s response and we are saved. Today is a day for gratitude, for rejoicing, and for renewed hope. We cannot change the past; the future is unknown; but we are given the present in which to ‘do now what may profit us for all eternity’, as St Benedict says.

May 2019 be filled with the blessings of peace, joy and unity for all.

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New Year 2018

The Virgin Mary (statue)

Today is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Octave Day of Christmas and the first day of the secular New Year. One year passes into another; the Incarnation marks the passage of the Creator into his creation, the intersection of eternity and time; and Mary stands as a hinge between the Old and New Covenants, making possible the fulfilment of the one and ushering in the promise of the other in the person of her Son, Jesus Christ. We look back, and we look forward, like the old pagan god Janus, after whom this month is named.

Inevitably, as we reflect on both past and future, there is often a strange disquiet, an underlying guilt about wasted opportunities in the past and a vague anxiety about what is to come in the future There is, however, no point in trying to live in the past or the future: all we have is now, which is why the present moment is so important. It is now that our salvation is being worked out; now that we meet God. Today is therefore a day of great hope, no matter how we feel or don’t feel. Its possibilities are, quite literally, infinite. The prayer of the community for our readers is one with that of the liturgy:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Listening

We begin the new year by celebrating the oldest Marian feast in the calendar and re-reading the Rule of St Benedict, starting with the Prologue. Just as the Rule begins with the word Obsculta, ‘Listen’, so Mary’s whole life was a constant listening to God in humble obedience to his will. Now that the fireworks and the partying are over, how will you spend 2013? Will you be listening, or will you be doing all the talking? If you want to know the answer, take a look at your new year resolutions (if you’ve made any). If they are mere wishes, things you’d like to happen, but with no serious attempt on your part to make them come about, it could be that you are mainly talking. If, on the other hand, they are serious attempts at improvement, which will require effort and commitment on your part, it could be that you’ve begun listening. Prospere procede!

Note
Last year I wrote about today’s feast as the hinge of the year. I think it’s still valid, see here.

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