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!
My late husband many times told me that I thought too much. He would like to have read this recent article by Fr. Stephen who tells me the same thing, and I commend it to your reading, even though, as Fr. Stephen admits, “…our thinking about thought is decidedly spooky.” We do need to think in order to learn the proper place of thinking, and the difference between thinking about God and being with God.
It is the latest in a series in which the author tries to get through our modern noggins the reality that we are more than our thoughts and feelings, and that the Christian faith is not essentially an idea. How could it be, when God is not an idea?
I think I get this, and I have written about it and quoted others about it for my own edification many times. It remains that I was born in this modern era and I’ve soaked up its ways as regularly as I’ve eaten my breakfast. It’s hard to live in the truth that I am learning, but each point that Fr. Stephen makes in each successive article helps a little more. This last one is full of concrete illustrations, such as:
1) eating your sandwich
2) burying your dead
3) being bored in church
4) the mythology of Star Trek
5) what Christ’s blood is
6) taking antidepressants
To contrast the secular mind with the spiritual or the Christian mind would be to perpetuate the misconception of our selves, and the article is fittingly titled “The Secular Mind Versus the Whole Heart.” In the comments section the author often elaborates on and clarifies statements in response to commenters, so don’t miss that part. Read it here.
“Whether we believe or not, we belong to God. Whether we understand it or not, or feel His presence or not, or rejoice in that presence or not, He exists. He is my God. He is my Lord. Even during moments of darkness and terror, when God doesn’t exist for me, He still exists. When I feel I’m a failure, when all my efforts seem fruitless, when my life seems to have passed in vain, Christ is still my Christ. He is there for me no matter what happens. He exists irrespective of my capabilities, capacities, and comprehension. I might imagine that God is small. But God is great. I might think that God doesn’t hear. But He does. And He has given Himself entirely to me, so that there’s only one possibility of failure: for me to break off my relationship with the ‘One Who Is’ (Ex. 3:14).”
+ Elder Aimilianos of Simonaspetra Monstery, Mt. Athos