Friday, January 5, 2018

Fire and Ice: Happy New Year- 2018!

Happy New Year! Even though the liturgical year began at Advent, there is still something exciting about officially starting a new calendar year. There is always hope of the possibilities, reflections on the year past, and relief that some things are now solidified in the year behind us.

I am trying not to have any expectations of this new year. Last year, I began with much trepidation because of the incoming president. Because of the results of all of the political drama last year, I expect this year to have much of the same. But because I also saw many movements begin to emerge and communities come together last year, I do also expect there to be positive response to that expected drama.

And that's all I've got so far for 2018.

Except! I've already also had two snow days in this new year, and with snow there also comes reflection on my part. Snow days can be good and bad for me. Who doesn't love the mandated time to stay inside and relax? And while I loooooove living alone, too much time alone isn't good for me. I like to be on the go and have options. Snow can also inhibit that for me.

Some of the positive things that came out of last year, were new Christian communities of women that kind of presented themselves to me. I have always been a part of women's prayer groups since I started my serious Christian journey, and didn't realize how much I missed or needed that practice since I've moved to Richmond.

One of the groups that I have become a part of has decided to read Ronald Rolheiser's "The Holy Longing" together. We just started the book in December and will meet to discuss the first chapter later this month.

This book is a Catholic spiritual classic, so I can't believe that I hadn't read it in its entirety before.

The book begins by just introducing the concept of spirituality and the soul. The author illustrates the point that the soul needs many things to nourish it, otherwise it will not be healthy. He uses the symbols of fire and water to show us that we need both passion and peace to sustain the soul.

After reflecting on the ancient symbols of fire and water, my nerdy brain immediately went to Game of Thrones' forces of Fire and Ice that are so prevalent and important in the series and show!

Rolheiser makes the case that it is no coincidence that many ancient rituals focused on these symbols of fire and water. Fire represents the passion and energy that the soul needs to be ignited. Water represents the peace and cleanliness that it also needs to survive.

I think as Christians- and especially as a Catholic- we focus so much on the water element needed for the soul. We understand the tranquility that prayer provides and the cleanliness that the Sacraments of Baptism and Confession give. The Holy Spirit and the Light of Christ are the images often associated with fire in our faith and we certainly believe that they provide the ignition and power to spark and sustain that faith.

But we need our own sparks as well, right? The Light of Christ and the Holy Spirit are perfect and holy and sustaining. It can be argued that we shouldn't need anything else. But we are human. And isn't the Trinity found in all life-giving things?

For example, I find both fire and water- passion and peace- in art and prayer. These things ignite me and calm me simultaneously and I believe that the Trinity is certainly evident in both.

As an introvert, I think I also tend to the waters of peace more often because I know that I need them for my own rejuvenation. But I also recognize that I need to go out and step outside myself and be around loved ones to ignite fire and energy, otherwise the waters will start to drown me (how far can I go with this metaphor, do we think? :)

Every New Year's Eve (with maybe only a couple exceptions in the last couple of years), some of my college friends and I get together to ring in the new year. We go all out. We dress up, we shell out for a hotel and food and drinks, and we just celebrate. This annual celebration gives me so much life that sustains me for weeks to come. It also gives my heart peace to be with people who know me and have loved me for a really long time now.

Certainly to party and wine and dine can ignite fire and bring energy into our lives. But I also have found at periods of my life that too much of it just burns me out (the metaphor that keeps on giving!). So like all things, the fire and water are about balance. And the Trinity can certainly be at the center of both things because we need both to sustain our soul.

This icy snow day at the beginning of this new year has me thinking: what ignites the fire in my soul? What can I do to spark it? And similarly, what brings me tranquility and peace? As I mentioned, sometimes things can do both. Travel and celebrations and art ignite my soul. But they also bring me peace and tranquility.

We can certainly expect more of those things, then, for me in 2018!

Happy New Year!