The New Year: 1923 Versus 2023

Despite December 25th having passed, the season is still very much with us — and even secular folk usually keep up their trees and so forth until New Year’s Day. But what a difference for most of that week makes! Where Christmas Eve sees most of us firmly in the family circle, our minds filled with either or both the Nativity of Christ and Santa Claus’ impending gift-laden visit. But many of us are out on New Year’s Eve, often enough surrounded by strangers. In hotel or restaurant where we are “ringing in the New Year,” we may well be in black or white tie, ready for the stroke of Midnight, a champagne toast, and Auld Lang Syne.

But there is an even greater difference between the two. Christmas is in many ways a backward looking for many — redolent with nostalgia, and a yearning for the days of yore. But New Year’s — although (especially for us Guy Lombardo fans) does indeed have a nostalgia all its own — is a forward-looking observance. But this year, when Church and State seem staffed in great degree by malicious morons, and the rulers of Earth seem to be sleepwalking their way toward World War III, 2023 may seem positively apocalyptic.

But it seemed so a century ago, when blood-stained 1922 readied its way to make way for 1923. Bl. Emperor Karl had died in Madeira the previous April 1, while the corpse-filled Russian Civil War was winding its way down to its blood-drenched conclusion. To make up for the lull in carnage, however, the Irish Civil War — far worse than the Irish War of Independence — roared into life. Mussolini had made his March on Rome, while the Weimar Republic was sputtering along with various killings and assassinations. The Washington Naval Treaty had forced Japan into permanent inferiority vis-à-vis their former allies of World War I — thus starting the road to Pearl Harbour. Pius XI had followed Benedict XV — thus tipping off the prophetically minded that Our Lady of Fatima had known what She was talking about.

It was a horrific time, to be sure. But our grandparents and great-grandparents lived through it, and managed — and so we are here to-day. New Year’s Day in the Traditional calendar is the feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord — the first of His Seven Bloodsheddings for us. At New Year’s Eve it is an ancient custom to chant or say the Te Deum in thanksgiving for coming through the Old Year — and, sometime after Midnight, to invoke the Holy Ghost upon the New by intoning the Veni Creator Spiritus. Regardless of what has happened or may yet occur, it is the Catholic response to show gratitude and hope. So while remembering the past (and I shall definitely play Guy Lombardo!), we must look forward confidently to the coming year and those beyond, knowing that whatever the future holds, all things work to the good for those who love God — no matter how dark the present seems! So in that spirit, I wish you all a Happy New Year, 2023!