We are a People of Possibility. That’s our January Soul Matters theme!
The New Year often feels like a time of possibility. A turn of the calendar from one month to the next and suddenly there’s a blank slate, a clean page, 365 fresh, new days awaiting our adventures….
But is the turning of a New Year really worthy of our attention?
History tells us that the New Year is one of the oldest and most universal of human festivals. There are scarcely a people, ancient or modern, who have not observed it in one form or another. It was even celebrated in ancient Babylon 4000 years ago! But those people marked it in spring when new life began sprouting from the earth. At other points in history, the Winter Solstice was considered the year’s beginning. It wasn’t until the year 46 BCE that the Romans established January 1 as the first day of the year in the western calendar system that we’ve inherited.
The idea that time is ordinary and linear and can be measured by dates on the calendar comes from the Romans’ neighbors, the ancient Greeks. They called this kind of time Chronos — and we visualize it as though time were like a long ruler, with notches marking minutes, days, weeks, months and years, even centuries… We use linear time to organize our lives.
But there is another kind of time: Kairos. Kairos time is sacred time. Kairos is the home of holidays, and it’s a kind of time that moves alongside chronological time, but has its own rhythm. In Kairos time we mark moments like the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the commitment of two people in marriage — moments that expand into something larger than we can fully name or know.
Holidays are Kairos times because we use them to mark or honor the mystery of life in some way. They are important for human spiritual development because pretty much everything else in our lives steers us towards the superficiality of Chronos. Chronos shows up in our western cultural fascination with progress, which seduces us with the notion that tomorrow will be better than today. Our middle-class focus on careers and upward mobility urges us to step and strive along linear time toward the future as well. And marketers buy in too, using our nostalgia for the “good old days” to sell us products to ease our anxiety about the future.
But on holidays, we shift away from business as usual, and we grow in soul-power. Listening to stories that connect us with the cycle of the earth, doing the rituals that connect us with our families or our religious heritage, and practicing meditation or prayers that connect with the great human themes of birth, death, and regeneration — these remind us we are part of a greater wholeness.
The sage John O’Donohue, in his poem “For a New Beginning,” says:
Though your destination is not yet clear — You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning — That is at one with your life’s desire.
Sending you blessings and a wish that your entry into 2019 will be full of grace!
Happy New Year,
The Rev. Suzelle Lynch, Minister