Christ is born!
My dear friends, we have just entered a new year, and with it we see people of all walks of life, of all situations, turning their minds to new beginnings – and also, perhaps especially, to the end of the old. I think there are very few people who are shedding a bitter tear to be seeing the end of the previous year.
Now, of course, there are those who will point out that this is only the beginning of a new secular year, that the Church year or liturgical year began a while back, this is true: the new year was at the beginning of Advent in the western Church, and in the eastern Church it was at the Indiction, or September 1st.
But this points us to an even more fundamental truth about the passage of time: every second that passes is the start of a new year, and the end of an old year. The numbers might not change on the calendar, no one makes a big deal about it, no one might even pay any attention to it at all. But it remains the truth: every passing second concludes a year that started exactly one year previous to that second – and every passing second therefore heralds the beginning also of a new year.
For since time itself began, every new beginning was itself prepared for, every new start had much that went before it. And that even a new beginning may have a past, it doesn’t cheapen it. For the entirety of history came together so that everything is as it is at that new beginning.
We hear something like that in the Gospel we read today, when we read from the very first chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Mark. He begins – in his very blunt but also very effective style – he begins by simply stating: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
It’s both an announcement of what you’re about to hear, and it’s a simple of description of itself. The beginning of the Gospel. The beginning of the Good News.
And then, immediately after announcing that it is the “beginning,” Saint Mark then goes to quote the Prophet Isaias, who lived seven centuries before. “As it is written in Isaias the prophet: Behold I send My angel before Thy face, who shall prepare the way before Thee. A voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.” And then Saint Mark writes of the ministry and testimony of Saint John the Baptist.
But imagine that. The first sentence of the Gospel proclaims a beginning. And the next sentence references a prophecy that was seven hundred years old. See, even a new beginning may have centuries of history in its preparation. Whether that be the new beginning of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as we hear today, or even our own personal new beginnings.
For none of are here without our own ancestors, who lived and who died, but who also themselves passed on life to their children and their children to their children and so on so that we might be here today at this moment. The Church in the weeks before and after the Nativity urged us to call to mind the ancestors of our Lord so that we might all the more understand how this new beginning of the Gospel was prepared throughout history.
And it is likewise prepared for us. For through century upon century now we have received the rightly-divided word of the truth of God, delivered to us through the voice of the Church, who never ceases to lift worship unto her divine Spouse. Centuries of lives lived in pursuit of the goodness and the truth and the beauty of the faith have gone before us all, and have come together so that in this present day we might be exactly where we are, and that we might receive exactly the word that receive today, and that we might ourselves this very day also be able to make a beginning in living of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
As the Fathers tell us, the greatest gift of every day is that we can once again make a beginning. Every day we can start anew in the evangelical life of grace. Daily we can – we must – pick up crosses and follow Him.
And again, this new beginning, this beginning of the Gospel, this can be embraced at any moment. We need not wait for a specific date or time. Every passing second is the start of a new year. Therefore wi the grace of God, every passing second can the start of a new life.
All of creation and all of history has prepared itself for you, in this moment. From all eternity God has seen you in this moment. May this moment itself see in you the beginning of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.