On January 1, New Year’s Day there is plenty of excitement and fireworks and it is a time for the whole world to celebrate. Well, not the whole world. If you are living in China or Korea and a lot of other places in Asia in 2021, you would be celebrating New Year on February 12th. It is called the Lunar New Year because the Chinese calendar is closely connected to the phases of the moon. Our Western New Year is also connected to the moon. Pope Gregory wanted Easter to be celebrated around the time of the full moon.
The First Peoples of Australia did not have calendars but through observing the sky and the growth of plants and the changes of the weather they developed a great knowledge of the changes of the seasons. They did not need a calendar. They worked with the natural cycles of the seasons, the sun and the moon.
So New Year is very ecological. It is tied into nature. It reminds us again that we are part of a interconnected system of risings and settings, of full moons and new moons. Like the coronavirus, the cycles of the sun and the moon affect everybody. We are indeed all in this together. We are all one people as far as the sun, the moon and the calendar are concerned. The position of the stars in the sky look down on the earth as just another planet.
What about God? What does God see in New Year’s Day? I think that God is delighted as we welcome another year as another gift from God. Our delight and expectation is shared by God.
Who knows what this year holds? At these times I always remember a saying from one of the wise priests we had in the seminary. “We do not know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future.” That says what I want to say here. I know and believe that God is the one who holds my future this year. How I feel about that depends upon who I think God is.
If I know that God is a loving and caring person who holds me and my future, then I can feel quite consoled. If I am a bit afraid of God, and do not know the tender love that is offered to me, then maybe I am not so sure that I will be safe and secure. I could be quite anxious about the future and even afraid of the unknowns of 2021.
I think we can take some consolation from the cycles of the sun and the moon, from the stars and the seasons. Just as these cycles keep going around and around. Just as we can expect the different trees to flower and the fish to be plentiful at the same times each year, then we can expect their Creator to be quite reliable. Nature can teach us a lot about God. That is why walking in the garden in the cool of the afternoon is often a good time to be calmed and healed. Adam and Eve heard God in the garden. Maybe we can do the same if we take the time to stroll in the bush or the quiet of the garden.
We can go out at night and look up to the stars and feel how small we are given the immensity of space but even so we are not flung off this earth into some sort of orbit around the sun. We have the reassurance of the solid earth under our feet.
In the morning we can see the sunrise and wonder at just how many times that sun has kept on coming up over the centuries. The reliability of sunrise can speak to our anxiety, to our fear of facing a chaotic year. I pray that all our Columban friends and supporters may believe that all will be well in 2021 because God makes the sun rise every morning!
Fr Trevor Trotter
Regional Director of Oceania