Monday, January 7, 2008

Epiphany resolution(s)

I've been thinking about this New Year's resolution thing, mostly because people on blogs have been pondering it too.

I can't remember what my resolution was last year.

I seem to remember I decided not to make one because I didn't need the pressure (I've got some stress in my life and a lot of it has to do with being evaluated) and/or because I never kept the resolutions I made.

Also, people's resolutions (mine included) always seem to be about losing weight or becoming better at something or achieving something.

Problem with the first one: It's not a New Year thing, it's an always thing: you gotta change your eating and exercise habits. And if it's the same resolution every year, it loses its punch -- in which case it should be a New Year thing, but just once.

Problem with the second and third ones: I have so much getting-better-at and achieving and fix-this and you-gotta- in my life right now because of external circumstances (some work-related, some others) and so many internal messages about that sort of thing to begin with that those two kinds of resolutions are a really bad idea; maybe not for someone else, but for me. It would be far better for me to meditate on the grace of Godde. (No, I am not becoming a Lutheran.)

More fundamental problem: I don't really live by the calendar-year calendar. The IRS lives by the calendar-year calendar and as a citizen I comply with that. (Until such time as I have the guts to do tax resistance and stop paying for war. In which case I would still have to abide by a calendar.) The diocesan budget lives by the calendar-year calendar and I work with that. The school at which I teach lives by the academic calendar, and so, programmatically, does the chaplaincy with which I am associated. Parts of my brain will always live by the academic calendar because it has so often and so long been a part of my life.

But the true calendar by which I live and on which I (try to) run my life is the liturgical calendar, the Christian year. Truth be told, I also pay a lot of attention to the Jewish liturgical calendar, for family and other reasons, and I watch and know a lot of the other religious calendars --Muslim, Hindu, Pagan, Buddhist-- because of vocational, personal, and occupational inclinations and commitments. Still, the measure of my days is the cycle of Christian prayer, the rhythm of the church year. "Season" to me means Advent, Christmas, Epiphanytide, Lent, Easter, Pentecost as much as winter and spring.

My body, of course, keeps track of the earth's seasons, as do my heart and mind and whatever else I am made of. And here in the Northern Hemisphere many of the church feasts (and the Jewish festivals) have seasonal or earth-based or agricultural connections.

Still, the calendar by which I run my life at the most fundamental and intentional level, and which has become part of me, beyond intention, is the liturgical one.

All this to say that I am rethinking the matter of resolutions in light of Epiphany.

In Epiphany we celebrate the manifestation of Christ and the love of God and the presence of the Spirit to the whole world. From there to "this year, how can I participate in this light that shines forth?" there is only a short step.

It may be, of course, that my resolution(s) has (have) to do with something more inward: a decision to devote more time each day to contemplation, to receiving the gift of grace, to multitask less, to sit still more. None of these is a "let your light shine" kind of activity, at least in the short term. (And it would be dangerous, I think, to think of them as means to an end. Prayer and contemplation are also useless, and Dorothee Soelle talks in her book on mysticism and resistance about Meister Eckhart's sunder warumbe, "without a why or a wherefore" which is how we are called to love Godde.) But I am pondering this idea of an Epiphany resolution, or perhaps "resolution" is the wrong word. An Epiphany promise seems to fit me better, and it is a commitment I could keep.

It might also lead me to think about January resolutions in the light of baptismal promises.

All for now. I welcome your thoughts.

Photo: Winter Waterfront, Kadiköy (Jane Redmont). (Click to enlarge.)


MikeF said...

I made just one this year, Jane, and it very much chimes with your thoughts on contemplation.

As you might expect, I'll second those thoughts 100% - how else can we know God? (As opposed to knowing about him, or about what he does, etc.) And how else, indeed, can we be part of this light?

Blessings - and thanks for this!


Grandmère Mimi said...

Jane, the longer I live, the more I live by the liturgical calendar. I love the church seasons. The church seasons march with the four seasons of the year for good reason, since their origins had much to do with the seasons. To pass the seasons of the year in the context of the liturgical calendar is enormously satisfying to me.

Upon rereading, what I wrote, it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. Shorter version: I love the church seasons.

Eileen said...

Jane - Excellent idea. I have made no New Year's resolutions this year - too much on my plate. And I can relate to the "improvement/achievement" thing too. I'm forever on a mission to be a better me, which is an everyday project.

But, making a promise to explore how to be part of the light of Christ makes good sense, and this is the perfect time of year to renew/rethink those committments. Bravo!

Jane R said...

Thanks, all. Keep the good insights coming. (And please keep me in your prayers.) Eileen, I don't know if I was clear, but one of the reasons I don't want to make a self-improvement resolution is that there are so many institutions and people and entities in my life right now sending me messages about how to improve myself or evaluating me as to my competence or worthiness for this or that, and I tend to be so hard on myself in that area anyway (the internal "fix this about yourself" or "why can't you finally do X, Y, or Z" messages) that I think it's unhealthy for me to make that kind of resolution.

I loved PJ's New Year meme though -- and it's part of what got me thinking. (I answered it, but in the privacy of my study. Ha!) And finally around Epiphany I started rolling around this Epiphany resolution or promise thing in my head. I'm trying not to be deadline-ridden and say "so get your act together by the feast of the Baptism of the Lord!" to myself, though ;-).