There have certainly been many worse years in human history, and even some in living memory, but I wouldn't want to repeat any of them, 2009 included. This past year was like watching the Fall of the Roman Empire, in fast motion. I don't subscribe to the 2012 end-of-the-world scenario -- "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night" (1 Thess. 5:2) -- but the direction and pace of recent events is enough to make one just a little uneasy that it might be true. The worst thing we could do, though, would be to surrender to the notion of imminent destruction, without a fight to reclaim our country and the world from the forces of darkness. As has often been observed (and misattributed to Edmund Burke), "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." So we don "the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation." (1 Thess. 5:8) We keep holding the torch of liberty and truth aloft, no matter how stiff or painful the resistance. And we pray unceasingly, rejoice always, and in all circumstances, give thanks (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
Speaking of 1 Thessalonians 5, how's this for a commentary on Year One of the Era of Hope and Change? "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." (1 Thess. 5:3) Was St. Paul prescient, or what?
Thank God for faith in better things to come, no matter how dark it may be now! Not a transformation through some irresistible march of "progress," not through human ingenuity or government power, but through God's love poured into receptive hearts and driving redoubled efforts to do better ourselves and to do more for our fellow beings. I think this hope is expressed perfectly in a remarkable poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, published in 1850, called Ring Out, Wild Bells. Read and ponder the text below--has Tennyson left out any of the world's woes? And in the last line, has he not truly identified the answer to them all?
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,Set to music, Ring Out, Wild Bells is also a very moving hymn. I couldn't find a good video rendition, but you can click here to download and play a lovely audio version of three stanzas.
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
MAY YOU HAVE A BLESSED AND JOYOUS NEW YEAR!