What honesty reveals of mystery…

I read a list “of the best poems for New Year,” and Christina Rossetti’s “Old and New Year Ditties” was among them. The second stanza reads:

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

This reminded me of a prayer that we pray at every Divine Liturgy, “All things good and profitable for our souls, let us ask of the Lord.” When we realize that as the poet says, whatever comes our way has the potential to “help me on my…rugged way to heaven,” even what is “ill” is transformed.

That isn’t to deny the “honest face” we need to have in ourselves, and which some part of us longs for from everything and everyone we encounter in life. Fr. Alexander Schmemann said, “If there are two heretical words in the Christian vocabulary, they would be ‘optimism’ and ‘pessimism.’ These two things are utterly anti-biblical and anti-Christian.” What we need is reality, the reality that “Our faith is not based on anything except on these two fundamental revelations: God so loved the world, and: The fallen world has been secretly, mysteriously redeemed.”(From the lecture “Between Utopia and Escape.”)

As we face the gifts of the new year 2017, may God’s grace flow through each one. My love goes out to you all!


10 thoughts on “What honesty reveals of mystery…

  1. I had a bit of a discussion recently about hope vs. optimism. I do tend to be optimistic, but only when it comes to things like Tuesday’s weather, or the possibility of getting the kitchen cleaned by the time the guests arrive.

    I’ve always said that optimism isn’t hope, and that hope can live even in the midst of pessimism. However badly I put that, Fr. Schmemann’s words seem to support the basic idea.

    I did read the entire essay, though not as closely as I will later. When I saw the date (1981) I hardly could believe it. It could have been written last month.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This poem is new to me and I like it very much. It did remind me how I sometimes have to wince when I realize that I am trying to explain myself to God, rationalizing my prayer as if He didn’t know me through and through.

    Thank you for your New Year’s message,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I am going to copy Fr. Schmemann’s quote into my diary and read “Between Utopia and Escape” later. The last two years were very hard ones for my family. It is sometimes difficult to accept that the things that have caused us such pain are helping us “on our rugged way”. But, that is, indeed, our faith!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a gorgeous photo, Gretchen. And I am looking forward to reading Fr Schmemann’s piece, presently. I’m preparing a course on YA lit and More’s Utopia is a foundational text for the SF/Fantasy genre but I’ve always been challenged by the tension between the need to use the imagination to truly see, and the inclination to escape reality by, in a way, checking out. I’m especially grateful for the link at this time, thank you.

    Wishing you well in 2017!


    1. Kate, when I saw the photo in my files I wondered why it was there, assuming I had found it online and thinking that I shouldn’t use it without permission. Then I remembered, I took the photo myself ! at a monastery I visit sometimes. 🙂

      I’m so glad this topic and Fr. Schmemann’s thoughts are useful to you right now. I laughed out loud in some places in that lecture; hope it is enjoyable at every level.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. At first I shook my head at “optimism” being anti-biblical, anti-Christian. Pessimism I can surely see, but optimism? And then I thought how it doesn’t matter how we feel. What matters is that we trust no matter what. That we have the faith to bring us through every situation good or bad. At least, that’s what occurs to me.

    I love how you ended this post: May God’s grace flow through us each one, and how your love goes out to us all. Amen and amen. And, my love to you, Gretchen.

    Liked by 1 person

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