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It's New Year's Eve!

Saturday, November 26, 2011
Daniel 7:15-27; Daniel 3:82-87; Luke 21:34-36

Today is New Year's Eve (well New Year's Eve of the liturgical year at any rate) and like any New Year's Eve celebration, this is a good occasion to take stock of what has happened in the past, to think about the present, and to look towards the future. Of course, when we do this, we have to be mindful of Jesus' warning about the dangers of getting drunk.

Now whilst getting drunk is a common enough feature of secular New Year's celebrations, things tend to be a bit more restrained when it comes to the liturgical New Year. So perhaps we should pay closer attention to the other warning Jesus gives – not to get weighed down by the cares of this life, concerns for things like honour, money or popularity. One of the few things the drunkard has going for him is this lack of concern for the cares of this life. This was something St Augustine observed in his confessions. He tells us about an occasion before his conversion when he met a destitute beggar in the street. He writes:

Already drunk, I think, he was joking and laughing. I groaned and spoke with the friends accompanying me about the many sufferings that result from our follies. In all our strivings such as those efforts that were then worrying me, the goads of ambition impelled me to drag the burden of my unhappiness with me …; yet we had no goal other than to reach a carefree cheerfulness. That beggar was already there before us, and perhaps we would never achieve it. ... True joy he had not. But my quest to fulfill my ambitions was much falser. There was no question that he was happy and I racked with anxiety.

Whilst St Augustine doesn't condone drunkenness, the example of the beggar made him think about the sources of joy. It wasn't good enough to say one person finds joy in drink and another in worldly honours. As Augustine put it, just as the drunkard's glory was not the real thing, his own glory wasn't the real thing either - but the glory of God is. The glory of God is where our true joy lies. This is what the apostles shared in at Pentecost when the people of Jerusalem mocked them for being filled with new wine. The glory of God is what we share in during the Eucharistic celebration.

The celebration of the Eucharist is particular fitting for New Year's Eve, because at a New Year's Eve celebration we consider the past, the present and the future; and in the Eucharist we also consider the past, the present and the future. In the Eucharist, we participate in the glory of God, who is and who was and who is to come. The Eucharist, with its past, present and future nature, is summed up in St Thomas' prayer:
O sacred banquet!
in which Christ is received,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory is given us.

Robert Verrill OP


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