We all desire newness! We don’t want to be stuck in a rut nor do we want to be conditioned by the past, especially by our mistakes. We feel that our past is littered with them and our future is still pure. In this sense our future seems pristine, exciting, beckons to us. Our hope is that we can live differently; that our lives are not simply tragic; that we can be creative. It is this hope that lies behind every smile or laugh. It is this hope that makes every artistic or musical inspiration possible.
Indeed, art and music are amongst our most original creations … every piece is unique and speaks of a refreshing newness. Smiles, laughs, artistic creations are all somehow the fruit of hope. Of course, we know that we cannot simply overcome the past … its joys and sorrows remain present. And we also know that we cannot create anything absolutely new … even in art it is always in some way true that there is nothing new under the sun. After all, all art is a transformation – marvellous and unique as it is – of matter.
Perhaps, this is why, we all seem to be somewhat nostalgic … we also appear to have a tendency to romanticise the past. The past seems to be ‘home’; the future is, of course, unknown. We become frightened and often succumb to the tendency to live in our memories. Or we can succumb to an opposing tendency: that of rebelling in our creativity. It may seem that we are destined either to a sweet melancholy or to a raging swirl of destructive creativity.
But perhaps that is not the case: maybe one, maybe the only, concrete experience of real newness is the birth of a child. Every child is new, unique in a way that is extraordinary. Every first smile is absolutely fresh. But even there, we quickly notice that – apart from the immense beauty of the new child – old human tendencies and faults are quickly discernible: from hard-headedness to self-centredness. It seems that there is a ‘historical’ memory of human faultiness which we cannot escape. It really seems that only God could save us!
Well, as we celebrate the first days of the civil year, the Church celebrates Mary – the Mother of God. Her child is new in an altogether extraordinary way because he is the Son of God. And as Irenaeus the Church Father put it...
this child brings all newness in bringing himself;
this child brings forgiveness which is a new creation;
he gives hope in hopeless situations,
he brings new life forth from losses;
he sprouts new fruit from dead branches.
We have radical hope: we are works of art not only in our own hands but in the hands of this child who treats us firmly yet tenderly.
This is why we do not need to be nostalgic … we can trust that our home is not in the past but in the present and in the future: our home is not somewhere but in the person of this child who is ‘God with us’. This is why we do not need to be violently creative… we can trust that this child is creative in a way that we can never be, and we can trust that he is faithful. This is why we need never be sweetly despondent: we have a future and it is pure and loving creativity. It is open to us to the extent that we trust him. It is this relationship on which all new hope is founded.
Fr Mark Sultana
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