January first has become the place we mark the passing of one year to another. All over the world today people are celebrating the passing of the old and the coming of the New Year. There is a type of relief that comes about when we can leave anything old and receive something new, it is both psychological and social in nature and holds a promise of better days for us when compared to what has passed.
This idea is actually foreign to our Faith. The Church cannot conceive of an idea that somehow the passing of one year leads to improvement in the new. We can call it progressive idealism, the expectation that what lies ahead is always, in some way, an improvement over what has passed away. It is the incorporation into our disposable society of even the very measure of time as a discard-able unit. It is a way of relieving ourselves of our own past, both its sins and virtues, in the hopes of improvement in the future.
The real danger of this approach is its lack of actual living in the present; replacing it with a romantic nostalgia for the past and a pretentious hope for the future. Neither is helpful, and both carry a perilous mindset that allows us to run roughshod over the present. We lose the ability to appreciate the moment God has given us to live in, the one we are in now, the actual time that is passing before us.
When Jesus stood in the Synagogue in Nazareth and read the passage from Isaiah, Chapter 61, about the acceptable year of the Lord [Luke 4:17 ff], he said today is this fulfilled in your hearing. In other words, the time is now for them to behold God Incarnate, as He was in their midst. They were constantly looking toward the future without recognition of the time God had already given them. This happens when we waste our time worrying about when the Apocalypse is coming, not realizing that is already happening every Liturgy in our churches.
The lesson for us here is to be vigilant in our lives to be virtuous, to pray constantly, and to savor each moment God has given us. Also to realize that when we make mistakes, it is not the passing of time that removes their effect on us, but the mercy of God upon us. His love covers “a multitude of sins” and renews us in a way no passing year can ever accomplish.
It is my prayer that you will be renewed in your love of God, in your love of others, and in your efforts to walk the path of Salvation that God has given you to follow. I pray you have every need fulfilled and that He grants you health, happiness and prosperity in the coming year and throughout your life.
Your servant of Servants in Christ,
+ David, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska