Friday, December 31, 2021

New Year's Eve Meditation

 From Thomas Merton's Seasons of Celebration. For New Year's Eve.

The Liturgy accepts our common, everyday experience of time: sunrise, noonday, sunset; spring, summer, autumn, winter. There is no reason for the Church in her prayer to do anything else “with time”, for the obvious reason that the Church has no quarrel with time. The Church is not fighting against time. The Christian does not, or at any rate need not, consider time an enemy. Time is not doing her any harm, time is not standing between her and anything she desires. Time is not robbing her of anything she treasures.


To understand the attitude of the Christian and of the Liturgy towards time we must have a profound understanding of Christian hope and Christian trust. Fundamentally the Christian is at peace with time because he is at peace with God. He need no longer be fearful and distrustful of time, because now he understands that time is not being used by a hostile "fate" to determine his life in some sense which he himself can never know, and for which he cannot adequately be prepared. Time has now come to terms with man's freedom. When man is not free from sin, then time is his enemy because every moment is a threat of destruction: every moment may be the one in which the unreality which man has chosen, by sinning, is brought face to face with cataclysmic reproof and is shown to be the fruit of servility, the abnegation of freedom, the surrender to determination by forces lower than man. But when man recovers, in Christ, the freedom of the Sons of God, he lives in time without predetermination, because grace will always protect his freedom against the tyranny of evil. The Christian then knows that time does not murmur an implicit threat of enslavement and final destruction. Time on the contrary gives scope for his freedom and his love. Time gives free play to gratitude and to that sacrifice of praise which is the full expression of the Christian's sonship in the Spirit. In other words time does not limit freedom, but gives it scope for its exercise and for choice. Time for the Christian is then the sphere of his spontaneity, a sacramental gift in which he can allow his freedom to deploy itself in joy, in the creative virtuosity of choice that is always blessed with the full consciousness that God wants His sons to be free, that He is glorified by their freedom. For God takes pleasure not in dictating predetermined solutions to providential riddles, but in giving man the opportunity to choose and create for himself solutions that are glorious in their very contingency. Does this mean that all temporal acts and decisions are despised and abandoned to an inscrutable divine will while the Christian disports himself in a realm of disembodied, abstract and purely spiritual "freedom"? No. on the contrary, even the most humble and contingent decisions of earthly and temporal life come to participate in this Christian realm of praise. Hence the Christian is not afraid of the clock, nor is he in cunning complicity with it. The Christian life is not really a "victory over time" because time is not and cannot be a real antagonist. Of course, the Christian life is a victory over death: but it is a victory which accepts death and accepts the lapse of time that inevitably leads to death. But it does this in a full consciousness that death is in no sense a "triumph of time." For the Christian, time is no longer the devourer of all things. Christian worship is at peace with time because the lapse of time no longer concerns the Christian whose life is "hidden with Christ in God."

Amy Welborn