Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

All this fuss over the New Year

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Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever Ps: 135:1

I know the New Year is an important time of the year. However, when I was in the Navy, even though like most young men I went out a lot, on New Year’s, I stayed in. Never understood all the intense celebration just because it was the eve of a New Year; of course, I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to all holidays as well as my birthday. Just ask those who work here at the retreat house. The more I tell people not to bother with my birthday, the more they do. So someone will wish me happy birthday, I will thank them, then forget it is my birthday, until the next time, and there is always a next time. Then there are the belated birthday greetings. However a friend every year brings out a treat and we have it together, I do like that; as well as special coffees from time to time. She makes me a little less a curmudgeon.

Although I don’t ‘get it’ about New Year's, I do like the thought of new beginnings, for if we lost all hope of being able to start anew, I feel that we would sink into a swamp of despair and never get out of it. In a sense wishing someone a “Happy New Year” is wishing that they will experience ‘mercy’ and ‘healing’. For to have a new beginning really means a letting go of self-destructive ways; wishing them a new and better life.

When in Panama, I would often babysit for people on New Year’s, until I was 14 or so. I would watch TV and at midnight everyone would go wild, except me and I am sure I was not alone in this, wondering about the New Year, so what (?)…..then I think about new beginnings and it makes sense to me.

My faith teaches me that every day is a New Year if I need it to be, or every moment, I can start over. All I need is the humility to actually begin and not give up. When a new course of life is decided upon, it does invite a struggle with old habits and compulsions, so it is not easy these new beginnings, but one worth seeking after.
Psalm 135 deals with God’s mercy, which truly is unending. Christians believe it, I do, but I don’t understand it fully, perhaps I never will, for if I understand God’s mercy, then I will reduce it to a mere human, contingent concept, which to tell you the truth is kind of scary.

Br. Mark Dohle, OCSO
Holy Spirit Monastery

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