We come to it – together or alone – in the company of Mary, Mother of God, Mother of Peace and, with her we pause to glance back at the year that is ending, we pause to ponder and to treasure in our hearts all that has been. There are experiences of great personal pain, of death and births that did not happen. There are babies who were born, dreams that were fulfilled, challenges met and obstacles overcome. We ponder in order to recognize the presence of God in all that we have been given to experience and this recognition of God’s presence in the past gives us hope for the future that is unfolding.
This is a contemplative, reflective moment that is necessary in every human life so that we are not endlessly rushing from one experience to another without learning the lessons and the wisdom offered by God in every single thing.
Looking back and moving forward we need to decide what to take with us and what to leave behind so that we don’t spend our lives hauling excess baggage, being unnecessarily burdened. The invitation of God in the Bible is to “unload all your worries on to Him because He is looking after you.” We need not carry more than is necessary.
We cross the threshold with Mary, abiding in Christ with the prayer of the Spirit of Jesus – “Abba Father” – rising in our hearts and the Eucharist as food for the journey.
I have had a great year. Being 60 years of age is a wonderful experience and I have learned the importance of the dreams that God has placed in our hearts. Dreams that I have held in my heart since childhood.
There is one dream that I decided to fulfil during the year – to travel for a week on a cargo ship – and it almost came true but didn’t in the end. But two other dreams did come true through no effort of my own.
The first was getting to spend a few days in a lighthouse, a gift given me by my family who were attentive to my dreams. The second is that I got to become a presenter on radio, Radio Maria. I didn’t seek it out. It was given. And this teaches me that I may propose to do something that is good and God given but God may choose otherwise, choosing instead to surprise me. And so I look back on these surprises and move forward in expectancy of surprises to come.
At home after Christmas I got to spend a day alone with my two youngest nieces – Katie and Laura – aged 7 and 5. I had decided not to buy them presents because they are overwhelmed with too many things. My intention was to offer them an experience – the experience of our presence with each other. Part of the plan was to bring them to a movie that they wanted to see.
I can’t remember which of the storms was raging in Galway on that particular day but it was horrendously wet and we couldn’t get parking anywhere. Everyone seemed to be out in town that day and when I said to the girls that we might not get to the movie, they said “we can just go to your house.” And I loved their adaptability. They were content not to get what was promised, content with whatever we might do together.
We went to Bonkers, an indoor play area for a couple of hours, followed by a Supermacs takeaway which we ate at home in the sitting room at my house and when it came to time for going home they were reluctant to leave. During the drive back home the three of us sang Christmas carols and there was such purity and sincerity in their singing that I felt I had reached the summit of Christmas.
This is something I carry across the threshold into 2016, the song of a child in my heart, song of gladness and praise. Singing is also part of the prayer of the Spirit in all our hearts, the prayer that has power in it to shift the darkness in which we will inevitably find ourselves from time to time.
And we carry blessing, the blessing given by God to Mosses and Aaron in Numbers chapter 6 – “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord uncover His face to you, and give you peace.”
I like this idea of the Lord uncovering His Face, revealing himself to us in the journey that lies ahead. It is for us, in moving forward, to keep the eyes of our soul focused on the light that shines from God’s face, a light that no darkness can overcome. May it be done in the Spirit, in the people who bless our lives every day and in the circumstances that will unfold. May we see the face of God.