Merry Christmas, Day 10


Image credit: as above. Click to the site so you can see this large, as it really repays looking at all the layers -- including the kings arriving in the distance.  

To read:  it's not too late to reflect on the old year and the new year, and this reflection from Card. Ratzinger does the trick nicely. 

Once when Augustine’s contemporaries complained about the bad times, he told them: “We ourselves are the times!” And in fact when we talk about the Biedermeier period or the Baroque age or the French Revolution, we are really referring to the people who together turned those years into a particular kind of era. Human beings with their changing ways make up the times.
But can time really advance when men do not? Do men make progress when they enjoy greater comfort but their hearts stand still or even shrivel up? And can a man make progress when he does not even know himself? When he has time only for what he owns and not for what he is? When he himself, therefore, remains outside of, disengaged from time? How can he learn to distinguish the valuable from the worthless and to preserve the one and abandon the other, and how can he find his way, when he continues to be simply a fish in the waters of time and does not really become a man with head uplifted?
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.