Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, St. Eugenia 2022
Under a good name
What has the turn of the year have to do with the church? Civil and church years are different. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Mother of God, not the New Year. You may ask all that, but we should perhaps not look to it disparagingly. Somehow it seems to me that the behavior of very many people on New Year’s Eve expresses a longing. The wishes for a happy New Year may sometimes be due to a polite habit, but they also show us what we deeply want: just a good year, a blessed year. And the calendar change can simply be an occasion to pronounce that and to pray that it will be well with us and everyone.
What does this desire express? It is not obvious that the year will be good or our lives as such will be lucky. Perhaps, someone looks back and is bitter or sad; he looks back on failed projects or broken relationships, on personal failure, on relapse into an overwhelming dependency, death of a loved one or a financial collapse. One could extend this endless chain of smaller and bigger disasters. And then we have not touched the big global issues like world peace or global warming. Again and again, we are faced with the experience: things which are hostile to life seem often so dominant and force themselves more easily on us than things which encourage us and bring us joy. Again and again, we see that our lives are at risk from many sides. Something is destroyed very quickly, rebuilt however with extreme difficulty. The desire that everything will be good is, given these dangers, very understandable.
The desire for a good year in the Church gets a different color if we pronounce it before God. And it can even be a relief. We do not have to bear the entire burden of the past and the New Year, but must trust that He walks with us, that He gives us only as much to carry as we actually can, that He does not exist alongside or above our life but in its midst – He has become man. This is what we have celebrated the whole last week. The octave of Christmas today reminds us once again of this. This feastday looks backward and forward: it looks back to God who has entered our lives, and looks forward to the time that lies ahead. The eighth day after Christmas is the day of Jesus’ name. And that name is translated, God saves, or God liberates. This name, Jesus’ name, the name over all names is set at the beginning of the New Year. And that is a wonderful message: God saves – this is God’s final and absolutely reliable word for each of us and for the time that remains. This name is not only written above this year but above every year and above my personal lifetime too.
Let us begin our New Year with its challenges under this name: Let us dare to complete some things of the past year, let bygones be bygones, and put these in God’s hands. Let us dare to take things that we have to take with us over to the New Year. We can not simply close the account, but some items have to be carried over: a disease or anxiety, a torn contact, a personal weakness or a fault to be removed. Let us dare to be like Mary, embark on the new and the surprising, things we have not expected and planned, and as such we become more open to God and his call.
Jesus – God saves, a name that stands above the New Year, our personal lifetime and the world’s lifetime. If we, with our small strength, try to guarantee that the year becomes good, we would stand. And when we wish each other a happy New Year, we express: Yes, we have much to contribute to the success of the year but not everything is in our hands. We therefore look to Him whom we celebrate here, to God who has come close to us in the child in the manger. When we look to Him the year becomes a year of grace. And if we ask her, the Mother of God, who is full of grace, to support us then our year will be blessed year.
Fr. Dominik Terstriep S.J.