As we look back on the past year and begin a new year, it can sometimes be quite a challenge to put into practice the saying of the former UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes!”
The year we are leaving behind has shown us how precarious life can be. So many wars have displaced thousands of people and sent them fleeing in search of safety. The continued destruction of the planet resulted in drought, flooding, famine and untold suffering for those living in the southern hemisphere.
How challenging it is to put into practice what Pope Francis tells us, “We must fan the flame of hope that has been given us and help everyone to gain new strength and certainty by looking to the future with an open spirit, a trusting heart and a far-sighted vision.”
For the last several months, our trees have been stripped of their leaves and our gardens have displayed few, if any, flowers. Our days have been short, with darkness falling early in the evening. But already the days are gradually brightening with darkness slowly decreasing by the length of a cock’s step as the old Irish saying reminds us: Tá coiscéim coiligh ar an lá.
Winter is now giving way to Spring and although we may not feel it ourselves there must be some heat in the earth as the snowdrops are beginning to appear and brighten our days.
According to one legend about the Garden of Eden, the snowdrop was connected to Eve’s shedding of tears when God banished her. To comfort Eve in her despair, an angel picked up a snowflake and threw it on the earth to cheer her up. As the snowflake shattered, it became a symbol of new beginnings and of hope because everywhere the snow landed, snowdrops grew.
The appearance of the snowdrop is usually our first sign of Spring. Despite its delicate appearance, the bulbs often sprout flowers when snow still lies on the ground. They are a symbol of rebirth and the ability to overcome challenges in life, a great sign of hope, a sign and gift that our world today is in desperate need of.
As we wish one another ‘Happy New Year’, let us do our best to put into practice the words of Jean Pierre de Caussade, “The past must be left to God’s measureless mercy, the future to his loving providence and the present must be given wholly to his love through fidelity to his grace.”
Sr Ann Gray
Published in the January/February 2023 issue of the Far East magazine. Please support Columban missionaries by subscribing to the Far East magazine. Annual subscription for print (including post) is just €20 and €10 for a digital subscription. You can subscribe here: https://columbans.ie/product/far-east-magazine-yearly-subscription/