The New Year: Redeeming the Time
I find it hard to believe that the month of January is almost halfway over. Since Advent began it has been very busy in my family, including the flu taking down various members this week. But time continues. The Church celebrated Christmas and now has entered tempus per annum or Ordinary Time.
For a long time I felt indifferent on celebrating the New Year. After all, isn’t it only man’s way of tracking time? The Church already celebrated a new Liturgical Year on November 30. It seems that January 1st merely marks a new calendar and with the year one number larger.
I can’t remember exactly my age, but I recall the first time I was given permission to stay up until midnight to greet the New Year. It was fun staying up late, but I felt such a letdown. The “New Year” arrived and I felt...nothing. All this hoopla for the clock changing to a new day in a new year seemed out of proportion to the reality. Is measuring and celebrating time really a part of a Catholic’s life?
Over the years I’ve realized that marking the New Year is authentic and part of a Catholic’s life because of the impact of Christ on time.
“Truth Exists; the Incarnation Happened”
This Advent and Christmas seasons I was pondering the late Dr. Warren Carroll’s motto, “Truth exists; the Incarnation happened.” His five word phase sums up the impact on time and history. With the Word becoming flesh, time is forever changed. God entered time at the moment of Incarnation; He is Christ the King, Lord of History. The impact of the Incarnation is on both past, present and future.
...Christ is Lord of history, that by his becoming flesh he entered into time, broke through its limitations, diffused his presence throughout all ages, redeeming the temporal dimension of creation as well as the spatial. His coming therefore is never restricted to a single epoch. His forgiveness transforms time past. His grace transfigures time present. His promise transignifies the future. In every phase of his coming it is through human relationship that he carries out his saving work, exercises his Lordship of love. This is why Advent really stands for all time, and why all time is hallowed, an opportunity for grace. (Seven Bells to Bethlehem, pp. 127-128)
The imprint of the Incarnation is vast. I only see with small glimpses at a time but the repercussions are constant and always around us. With Christ entering time we can see God’s well-ordered plan, choosing the fullness of time: “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5). All of time has a purpose; Christ’s Incarnation redeemed and sanctified time.
Our fallen nature benefits from new beginnings as reminders to get back or stay on track. The Church provides many beginnings. Within the Liturgical Year, Advent marks the new Liturgical Year and is also the first preparation and penitential season. Lent is a time of renewal and preparation before Easter, a sort of annual retreat to refresh ourselves. But it isn’t only with the seasons marked with violet vestments that are refresher times. With every change of liturgical season there is a new shift in focus, a call to look at our lives differently. Outside of the liturgical calendar, the sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Penance provide a new beginning.
I realized how foolish it is to go against “manmade” time. We are both physical and spiritual beings, and marking time helps us order our lives. Time is not goal, but a tool for us on earth. With Christ we “sanctify” time. Father Pius Parsch explained so beautiful how to create that balance:
We Christians belong to time and to eternity; we live in time and rise above it. Because Christ gave us the eternal life of God’s children in baptism, we have definite assurance of never really tasting death. Therefore as Christians, we do not cling to time; for it is only a way to the goal, a means for reaching eternity. Our best teacher of liturgical piety, St. Paul, says so beautifully: “Life for me is Christ, and death a gain.” He wants to say: The essence of my life on earth is Christ; death, therefore, is not a loss but a great gain, because it unites me most perfectly with Jesus....
Because the Church is a colony of heaven, there is an air of eternity about her; her feasts and celebrations image the eternal feast in heaven where the blessed observe a perennial Sunday. The liturgy with its even tenor, its uninterrupted praise of God mirrors eternity. We read above how St. Sylvester called the weekdays feria because every day for the Christian is a “free day,” i.e., a holiday for God.....
On New Year’s Day, the Breviary gives this brief but significant message: “All things earthly pass away, but You remain the same; everything grows old like clothing and as old clothing you put it away; but You, Yourself, O God, are always the same and Your years never multiply.” Let us, therefore, live on earth a life of eternity! Nevertheless, we must not look upon time disdainfully. It is a means unto eternity and we have to use it well, “The night comes when no man can work.” It is is way to the goal, and so must be exploited. Therefore, use your time well; or as St. Paul says: “Redeem the time!” How? Fulfill your God-appointed duties. Dream less of the past and future and concentrate on present spiritual progress. Christ said: “Every day has its sorrow; solicitous for itself will be the morrow” (see Mt. 6:34). Do not worry over yesterday or tomorrow, work for God. Yesterday is past, tomorrow is uncertain; but today, the present moment, is entirely in your hands. Exploit it! (From December 31, The Church’s Year of Grace, Volume 1, Advent to Candlemas, by Dr. Pius Parsch, 1964).
I don’t always start New Year’s resolutions on New Year’s Day. It does look neater to start on the first of January, but with the Christmas season still in progress, I like to start a little later on some personal resolutions. Regardless the type of resolution I’ve chosen, they do all stem around using my time on earth well; I’m working to redeem my time.
Society has become more secular in nature so we do not have that outside pattern of society living the Liturgical Year such as in medieval times. We can order our days following the Liturgical Year within our domestic church. But all seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years have all been redeemed by Christ. As I daily pass the time, I’m resolved to order it all through Christ:
Sanctify time by immersing it in the Church’s year of grace. A program has already been worked out for the day, the week, the year, and life. Daily in the holy Sacrifice a divine Sun rises over our day; and its hours are hallowed by the light of the Divine Office. Upon the week Sunday sets its seal. Esteem it highly! The Church year sanctifies the months as they pass; these are God’s seasons and give the soul life, fertility, and growth. And around your whole earthly life the Church braids the wreath of sacramental consecration, from baptism to holy anointing. How easy it is to make time eternal (From December 31, The Church’s Year of Grace, Volume 1, Advent to Candlemas, by Dr. Pius Parsch, 1964).
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