Happy New Year! Merry Christmas! ~ Day 8


Image credit: personal photo of Madonna & Child with Ss. Jerome & Bernard of Siena, Benvenuto di Giovanni, taken in the National Gallery of Art, DC. 

Happy feast of the Mary, Mother of God!

If you have FB, then enjoy this transcription of a New Year's Eve reflection from Card. Ratzinger's "Dogma and Preaching: Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life." A "deep dive" on the meaning of time and into St. Augustine's comment that we ourselves are the times. A few cuts:

The consolation of transiency: nothing lasts, no matter how important it claims to be. But this consoling thought, which gives patience its character of promise, also has its discouraging and saddening aspect. Nothing lasts, and therefore along with the old year not only difficulties but much that is beautiful has passed away, and the more a person moves beyond the midpoint of life, the more poignantly he feels this transformation of what was once future and then present into something past. We cannot say to any moment: “Stay awhile! You are so lovely!” Anything that is within time comes and likewise passes away.
Our feelings toward the new year show the same ambivalence as our feelings toward the old year. A new beginning is something precious; it brings hope and possibilities as yet undisclosed. “Every beginning has a magic about it that protects us and helps us live” are the words Hermann Hesse puts in the mouth of the Master of the Game in his novel «Magister Ludi» ("The Glass Bead Game") at the moment when the now elderly character breaks out of his accustomed world of intellectual play and feels once again the spacious promise and intense excitement of a new beginning. At the same time, however, we fear a future whose paths we do not know and the ceaseless dwindling of our own share in that future.

We men are the times. We ought to reflect further on this surprising statement. When we do, we stumble upon the fact that man lives through quite different periods: childhood, youth, adulthood, old age. But today more than ever these stages of life become separated from one another. It is as though the elderly and the young were living in different times, and the two groups compete with each other for the time. If we look more closely, the picture becomes even more confusing. On the one hand, human life-expectancy has increased; people have more time than in the past, or, more precisely, the span of time given them for living has become longer. On the other hand, human life changes ever more rapidly: it is used up sooner, so that the difference between past and present becomes steadily greater, the present moments become ever shorter, and the past recedes faster and faster and ends up at an increasing distance from the present.
This, however, means that man is thrust into the past at an increasingly earlier point and belongs to it longer. It also means that increasingly divergent times must coexist within a single time and that increasingly sharp tensions must be endured within one and the same time, which in fact consists of a stratification of contradictory times. People, therefore, find themselves increasingly difficult to deal with. They find it more and more difficult to accept their temporality because they inevitably experience this more intensely as transiency, as slipping into the past, and, therefore, as hopelessness.
This results not only in the conflict between the generations that we encounter every day. Another result is that people deny the time in which they actually live and are willing to acknowledge and accept only one stage of life: youth. In an era that derived its inner strength and organizing power from tradition, the most revered stage of life was old age. This experience is still reflected, in ecclesiastical language, in the word “priest”, which is derived from the Greek work «presbyteros» and means “an elder”. People who have experienced the coherence of time—the interconnection of the stages of life—are the ones who carry the times. Today, however, people try to stop the clock and remain fixed in a particular moment of time; makeup artists help them, with varying degrees of success, to remain thus disguised from themselves and others. But in both cases—the emphasis on age and the emphasis on youth—people deny the wholeness of life, resist time, and deceive themselves.


"Chronos is a cruel god, now as in the past. Just think of all the things that those who worship the modern as the good have had to adore and then, a short time later, cast into the fire! Only the oblivion that Chronos bestows on his worshippers prevents them from seeing through his cruel game with all its contradictions. How cruel a game it really is becomes clear to anyone who turns the pages of twentieth-century history and sees all that men have done to themselves in the name of modernity. When time becomes master of man, man becomes a slave, even if Chronos makes his appearance under the alias of Progress or the Future."