After a two week break it’s time to get back to the log and I hope that all who will read this had a peaceful transition from the old year to the new and that 2017 has many blessings in store for you.
I was thinking back to my transition from 1982 to1983, the year I was ordained. I was doing my diaconate year in Rome at the time and living in the Passionist Monastery of Saints John & Paul on the Caelian Hill, near to the Colosseum. In the lead-up to the new year the local newspapers were pleading with the ordinary inhabitants of Rome to abandon a long-time custom that seemed to be a bit reckless and dangerous. Apparently, at the stroke of midnight, when the bells chimed to greet the new year, the good Roman citizens would open wide their windows and cast out into the streets below any possessions and household items, including crockery and pieces of furniture, that they wanted to be rid of and replace – out with the old and in with the new – which meant that in the early morning the refuse lorries had to come around and clear the debris from the streets to ensure safe passage.
It reminded me of Edinburgh in the early part of the 18th century when the inhabitants of the overcrowded tenements would cast open their windows and empty the contents of their chamber pots into the streets below, famously crying “gardyloo” to give passers-by the message that they had better move away pretty sharpish. While being drenched with the contents of a chamber pot would have been pretty disgusting, it was probably preferable to having a wardrobe or a chest-of-drawers land on your head. (Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration). Needless to say, the good citizens of Rome ignored the appeals and continued as before, although I imagine there have been new health and safety regulations since to bring the practice to an end.
My transition from 2016 to 2017 was quite traditional. My niece, Lisa, has taken on the mantle of family gatherer, and for quite some years now we have assembled in her house for the traditional steak pie dinner before gathering round the television for the midnight chimes, raising a toast to each other, and singing Auld Lang Syne with the usual confusion as to when we are meant to cross arms and link each other. At that point someone looked out of the window and noticed the people in the house next door assembling in the garden and a young lad setting himself up to play the bagpipes, so with general agreement we abandoned Jackie Bird and went out into Lisa’s garden to join them. As he began to play the people in the house on the other side came out too, as did the people from across the road, and before long we were having our own street party with greetings being exchanged by all concerned. The young piper was getting more chuffed with every cheer he got at the end of each set.
In previous years I was able to go home and have a good sleep-in, but this year, being back in St. Mungo’s, and having to open the church and celebrate Mass on New Year’s morning, I left early and put my head down in my younger brother Patrick’s house before the morning and its duties came.
Nobody captures the beginning of a new year better than the Servite Sister, Joyce Rupp O.S.M.:
Sacred Mystery, waiting on the threshold of this new year,you open the gates and beckon to me: "Come! Come!Be not fearful of what awaits you as you enter the unknown terrain,be not doubtful of your ability to grow from its joys and sorrows.For I am with you. I will be your Guide. I will be your Protector.You will never be alone."Guardian of this new year, I set aside my fears, worries and concerns,I open my life to mystery, to beauty, to hospitality, to questions,to endless opportunity of discovery in my relationships,and to all the silent wisps of wonder that will draw me to your heart.I welcome your unfailing Presence and walk with hope into this new year.