Writing an article on the last day of November for inclusion in the January issue of a parish magazine needs the wisdom of the prophet Daniel, who could unravel mysteries and foretell the future. Sadly, the Diocesan Director of Communications has asked me instead!
What will be happening about the Covid restrictions and the progress of the vaccine? What trading arrangements will there be with the European Union as the transition period comes to an end? Will there be an orderly transition of power in the United States? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but the enthusiasm or otherwise with which we wish each other a ‘happy New Year’ will depend in large measure on the answers to those questions. Our lives and our livelihoods, the health of ourselves and our loved ones and the earth itself are all bound up in the answers to those questions.
There is a rich seam of Christian spirituality to help us reflect on the fact that we cannot foretell the future. Jesus said, ‘Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day’. The eighteenth-century spiritual writer Jean-Pierre de Caussade wrote of ‘the sacrament of the present moment’. And the English poet and theologian, St John Henry Newman, included these lines in one of his hymns: ‘I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me’. He addressed that hymn to the ‘Kindly Light’ whom he believed had guided his life, even when he wasn’t aware of it.
We cannot know the future; we cannot even be certain of tomorrow. But we can put our hope in the Kindly Light of Christ, and take the New Year as it comes, step by step.
Dean of Worcester