The New Year


It was not difficult to say good-bye to 2001. The memory of September 11th will dwarf whatever else took place last year for years to come. Many welcomed the New Year with hope that it will offer new opportunities to reach some desired goals, or to better our situation–indeed, to obtain something of what our hearts desire. On the other hand, there was the sadness of remembering those who are no longer with us, and the unavoidable thought that each passing year brings us closer to the end of all New Years for us. The arrival of a new year can also give rise to fear. The unknown future scares us with frightening possibilities just over its nebulous horizon. Some find refuge in a cynicism fed by broken promises and betrayed expectations. Facing this ambiguity, we ask ourselves: How should we face the New Year that has begun? What truth lies behind the passage of time?

Upon what can we base the trust and confidence to look at the future with hope, creating and taking advantage of its opportunities rather than becoming paralyzed by its dangers and uncertainties?

The Church meets the new calendar year by celebrating the Mystery of Mary’s maternity. The liturgical season is still Christmas, and our attention is centered on the Mystery of the Incarnation. As a result of this Mystery, the passage of time has become part of the personal life of the Eternal Son of God. The beginning and end of days is now part of God’s eternity.

According to Péguy, there are two perspectives from which to contemplate the Incarnation. The first is “from above,” so to speak: the eternal becomes part of time, the infinite part of the finite. The Incarnation is “something that happened to eternity, to the eternal, to the spiritual, to Jesus, to God.” The other perspective is “from below,” the Incarnation as “something that happens to the earth.” In this case, the Incarnation can be seen “as a flower or as a fruit of the earth, so to speak, as the supreme success of temporal fecundity.”

This is the Mystery of Mary’s “fruitful maternity” which the Church celebrates on New Year’s Day. When this happens, the passage of time that shapes our humanity becomes the means through which Christ is formed in us.

Christ is born in and through us. Everything that happens to us because we are human beings sinks its roots in divine life, escaping corruption. As such, all authentically human experiences can bear a fruit that lasts forever. In spite of our poverty, in spite of our limitations, in spite of our fragility, in spite of our dependence on what is beyond our reach, we are capable of eternity, escaping the law of death that takes hold of the passage of time. This is the basis for a real human creativity; for those “works” that are the expression of our humanity. Thus do we participate in the construction of that kingdom of God that will not pass away.

When the passage of time is lived in union with Christ, a hope is born in our hearts that nothing can destroy. Jesus Christ is the Redeemer and Lord of time, the Alpha and the Omega. Without Him, no year is really “new,” since outside of “time in Christ,” the passage of time bears within it the germ of corruption and death. The future cannot deliver what it promises; days, months, and years leave behind an emptiness that cannot be filled, the years flow like a current going really nowhere. The basis of Christian hope, therefore, is not a naïve trust in the future that ignores the difficulties of the present. It is not a sentimental optimism, but a present experience of an event that has taken place and continues to take place within time.

At the beginning of evangelization, the hope born from this experience transformed a world fearful of a future dominated by incomprehensible forces. Today, the New Evangelization calls us to do the same.