New Year’s Day ever struck me as something of an odd vacation. Why do we humen find it necessary to set aside a daylight to mark yet another full outing around the sun? Different cultures have celebrated the new time at different times: the Jewish people celebrate the brand-new time in their observance on Rosh Hashanah in the early descent; for many Christians the brand-new ritual year begins with Advent; the Chinese celebrate between late January and late February; and the ancient Romans celebrated the brand-new time in March. Whatever the month or the working day, beings of all cultures and religious institutions seem to have an innate desire, if not a need, to commemorate a new beginning each year.
In our culture one of the most common ways to observe this new beginning is the attaining of New Year’s answers. These decides more often than not seem like an exercise in futility- we almost inevitably cave within a month or two. And more, every year many of us pluck up our will power and try again. What are we to realize of this phenomenon? The tradition of New Year’s answers reveals two particular aspects of our human nature that are important for the spiritual life: our constant need for growth and our inability to persevere by sheer will power.
At the root of the practice of New Year’s resolvings is a dissatisfaction with who we are. Though there are certainly unhealthy kinds of dissatisfaction, in and of itself dissatisfaction is not a bad thing. Only the most arrogant person mis even an ounce of self-knowledge would actually believe that he has no room for improvement. Making settlements reminds us that we are not finished products–and breaking them procreates this even more obvious. But what’s the site of answers if we’re fairly certain we’re not going to keep them? Is there anything to be gained by them?
Perhaps the most important thing about resolves is not following through with them perfectly, but rather the determination to start over every time we disappoint. Indeed, for those who take the spiritual life dangerously, resolves should be a regular part of one’s life , not something set aside for New Year’s Day. One common assemble of the act of repentance said by the penitent during the sacrament of confession ends with the line, “I securely resolve, with the assistance of your prayer, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.” Every time we go to confession we are reminded of the need to amend our lives, and we are given the chance to start anew. Penance does not simply remind us of our need to change, however. Note that the prayer says, “I securely resolve, with the help of your forgivenes, to sin no more.” Perhaps part of the reason we disappoint so often in our solvings, particularly spiritual ones, is that we forget our total dependence on God’s grace, for, apart from Christ, we can do nothing( John 15:5 ).
In a room it’s fitting that the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on January 1. Mary’s role in the program of recovery was a sheer gift of God, and the feast reminds us at the beginning of each new calendar year of God’s generosity and of our need for it. As we begin this New Year, cause us be ever was aware of our need for God’s grace, and tell us entrust our resolutions to the intercession of the Mother of God, who in her Son has brought us innumerable graces.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicana and is reprinted here with species permission.
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