Chapter Talk – New Year’s Eve – December 31, 2022
New Years Day in the Catholic liturgical season (the Roman calendar) opens the new year with a solemn feast dedicated to Mary Mother of God. Why Mary? Why the feminine vessel of God’s life, the Divine new life? She embodies the posture of receptivity to the silent promptings of the Spirit. Her consent is a paradigm for our lives, this humble yet strong demeanor of willingness, willingness to receive and accept the Divine promptings, even though there is so much that is unknown surrounding her ‘yes’, unknown about where her ‘yes’ will lead, about what it will ask of her, about how it will unfold into the future. Those simple words uttered over 2000 years ago continue to reverberate into our own time, ‘Let it be done to me according to your Word’ (Lk 1:38). This is not a weak person submitting to her fate. Quite the contrary. It is a response of profound faith, a readiness to let go of fears and anxieties, to say ‘yes’, not naively, to the Divine invitation, an invitation to Life, fuller Life, a Life that avails itself to the direction and promptings of the Spirit, along with a willingness to place God at the center of all that one is and all that one does.
Sr. Maria Boulding in her book, The Coming of God, says that Mary was “asked to make a leap of faith in response to God’s self-offer and invitation. There were no models for understanding, no comforting precedents, because this thing had never happened before” (p.24). And she adds to this: “Like the prophets and the anonymous believers before her, she let go of familiar, intelligible patterns and ways of relating to God and the universe, of those frameworks which had genuinely supported meaning hitherto, and were indeed God-given. She said her ‘Yes’ to the Beyond, she let go of her securities…accepted her own bewilderment and risk. She was herself reborn to a new existence, that she might bring forth life for many. There was joy for her, and in newness of life she danced with the Beyond that was within” (p.25). As we each hold our ‘yes’ during this sacred time and into the New Year, it is important to stay close to Mary for with her our fears will not have the upper hand. She will call forth our faith, our willingness to continue uttering our ‘yes’ even as it is surrounded by the unknown, where we do not know where it will lead and what it will ask of us individually and together as a community.
Often, we allow our fears and anxieties to control our lives. Think about the varied ways we each do this. This is a different time: the existential reality of our lives is calling for change, a new perspective, a larger more encompassing horizon, something that has never been before! Already, now, this ‘new’ reality is being shaped and formed. We will only be able to meet this creative time if we surrender, let go of what we know, and give the space for God to do his work in our lives. Letting go of our ‘control’, dwelling in uncertainty, being present to this seemingly ‘empty’ space where the way forward is not clear. The gift of Christmas, the gift of God’s beloved Son, the gift of incarnate life dwelling with us and within us will not disappoint. We are not alone in this process. Like Mary our ‘yes’ continues to call us to be the vessels of this new life, a life that only God knows what its shape and form will be in the end.
Ending and beginnings: this is what a New Year presents to us. We leave behind what was, still, we build on the graces from the year we leave behind, and we pray into this new year for wide open hearts, for God to lead us as Jesus was led, and indeed as Mary was led. As we behold the paradigm that Mary embodied in her ‘yes,’ and how she lived her ‘yes’, finally, in the end, standing at the cross of her Son, we see that the ‘ego’ is not in driver’s seat.
Before the ‘yes’ is the overshadowing of the Spirit…and then the quiet reflective space beneath fears…and then the full surrender, ‘Let it be done to me according to your Word’. These precious words we are to pray individually, and we are to pray them together as a community, for both are needed in the new year before us.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess