Tag Archives: New Year

Birthing beginnings

A new year, a time for rebirth.


Hannah Arendt, in The Human Condition, notes the importance of birth. Inspired by St. Augustine she affirms that

Because they are initium [beginning], newcomers and beginners by virtue of birth, men take initiative, are prompted into action….

It is in the nature of beginning that something new is started which cannot be expected from whatever may have happened before. This character of startling unexpectedness is inherent in all beginnings and in all origins…. The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability, which for all practical, everyday purposes amounts to certainty; the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle. The fact that man is capable of action means that the unexpected can be expected from him, that he is able to perform what is infinitely improbable….

Each birth is a new beginning, a recognition that something new, something never experienced before, has come into the world, shaking it up.

We get all too accustomed to the way things are, all too set in our ways and a child is born, turning everything upside down.

So too a celebration of the New Year can be a time to act in a new way, to make resolutions to change things.

Making resolutions is a sign of hope that we are not controlled by our past, that God opens up a way for us.

Keeping resolutions is a sign that God can convert us, change us, move us to be and to act in different, unexpected ways.

It is this fitting that todays Gospel has the shepherd running in haste to the manger. They have been told that something new has happened. A child is born! And if that isn’t enough, this child is God made flesh and is lying in a manger, a feed trough.

Something new is possible because something new has happened. A child is born.

And we can live and act anew – birthing new beginnings.

Seeing the world anew in a new year

Last week I went to Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, to the funeral and burial of my last living aunt, Mary Barrar. It was a time of sadness and celebration, as we remembered aunt Mary as a take-charge, faith-filled, loving woman.

During the last two years of her life, as she became frailer, she was moved into a retirement village

The night before I left to return to Honduras, her son George drove me around the grounds to share some of his memories of being with his mother there. It was snowy but you could see that the grounds were beautiful are well-cared for.

Aunt Mary had mild dementia and George told me how each time he took her out to the gardens at Dunwoody she would be in awe, since each visit was a new experience. She did not recall that she had seen them before.

Dementia can be awful and very troubling, both for those who suffer and for their loved ones.

But George’s reflection made me think about the gift of seeing things each day as if they were new.

A line from Gerard Manley Hopkin’s poem “God’s Grandeur” came to mind as I thought more on this.

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things

A new year has begun. Maybe the best resolution I can make it be to rise each day to a new day, seeing the world anew, standing in awe and gratitude to God for “the dearest freshness deep down things.”