Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2 January
Memorial of Ss. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen
Celebrating By Remaining

Readings: 1 John 2:22-28; Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4; John 1:19-28

On the second day of the new year I find myself in a culture that revels in its ability to celebrate. Christmas has been a rather prolonged and intense period of caroling in homes and liturgies in church. For nine days before Christmas, I’ve witnessed hordes of people flocking to the dawn Masses (beginning at 4:30am) and been moved and inspired by their devotion. The New Year was heralded with similar fervor. Fireworks and feasting probably preoccupied many, even the poor. In a way, it’s a refreshing contrast to the culture back home, which is still learning how to let its hair down once in a while. There’s much to learn here.

But there is also a shadow side to all this. According to locals, many who flocked to the dawn Masses and who filled the churches on Christmas Day will probably only be seen again next Christmas. And the revelry that rang in the New Year also resulted in fingers being blown off by misfired rockets. Further, and even more significantly, the festive cheer will most likely have little if any impact on the social ills – such as endemic corruption and ongoing marginalization of the poor – that continue to plague the nation. From what I gather, the celebratory spirit that I find so impressive will be as short-lived as it was spontaneous.

It will be so, I suspect, because this kind of celebration often resembles one of two things. Many of those who go to church only at Christmas probably liken their annual celebrations to the buying of insurance. All you have to do is pay your premiums periodically and then you can rest assured that your security will be provided for the rest of the time. And for those who celebrate the New Year by igniting fireworks and shooting guns, celebration has to do with letting off steam. The pressures and frustrations of daily existence are so great that they require some outlet every so often. But little thought is given to why there is a build-up of steam in the first place and how it might be alleviated.

In contrast, our readings on this second day of the New Year present us with a quite different approach to celebration. It is expressed, quite strikingly, in a word that appears no less than six times in the first reading. The scriptures teach us that to celebrate means to remain. It means remaining in Christ, and allowing Christ to remain in us. And the gospel shows us the implications of this kind of celebration by reminding us of the experience of John the Baptist. He who was visited by the newly conceived Son of God, even while he was in his mother’s womb, remained in communion with Christ by spending his life preparing the way for Him. Even to the extent of literally losing his head.

Today is already the 2nd of January. Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are past. Yet, in a sense, our celebrations need to continue.

How are we being called to remain in Christ today?

1 comment:

  1. A blessed new year to one and all.

    It is refreshing to once again reflect on Fr Chris' daily blog after a lapse of two months.

    No matter the culture or country, people celebrate a new year with much gusto because it represents hope for a better future, a hope brought about by the birth of the Infant God at Christmas. A new year also brings fresh opportunities to be seized.

    May the grace and peace and reconciliation of the Infant God remain with us throughout the new year.