New Year rolls into town with the first chilled air of the winter. The climate itself appears to acknowledge this much celebrated change to the calender year. Of course the Liturgical Year started over a month ago with Advent. For many as the fireworks fade the Christmas festivities conclude with the thought of a return to work. However Christmas proper can run up to the baptism of the Lord or even to the Presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple celebrated on the second of February. It’s a reminder to me always that whilst through the holiday season the focus always turns to family visits, exchange of gifts and a strong commitment to eating and drinking, now as the first morning of this new year emerges from the haze of the passing year, there is opportunity to return my focus solely to Jesus, who is, to quote contemporary jargon, ‘the reason for the season‘.

Still losing sight of Jesus is nothing with which I’m unfamiliar. My best intentions are always shipwrecked upon the frailty of my own fractured humanity. Strange that each New Year fresh well intentioned desires arise from within my purified heart. Only today I recognise they haven’t the strength to achieve all that they intend. They are at most a distraction, at worst a deceit. They will misdirect my gaze toward my own egotistic aspirations if I pursue them. They are my own rather impoverished yearnings to be God like, rather than a means to further my desire to follow God. Much like the Magi discovered, there is more of God across the desert than within the comfort of one’s own home. The way to God’s heart demands detachment, and detachment is always disconcerting.

As some no doubt need to sober up following their alcoholic revels of last night, I need to sober up from my own vain imaginings about the strength of my passion for God and determine the degree to which I will choose to walk in obedience into this new year. Certainly I want to explore fasting and discover a heart level understanding of the place of fasting in my Christian walk. The ancients recognised its value and were devoted practitioners, without either obsessing or becoming mastered by the fast itself.

I note many newspapers in January recommend a ‘health fast‘ to cleanse the body from all the additives consumed through the Christmas celebrations. I am more interested to explore the way of fasting as a means to address the many unhealthy additives I consume so readily living within a very comfortable material economy. Of course it’s not something I can talk about too much since it comes across as sanctimonious and many feel judged or diminished by a perceived attempt at DIY holiness on my part. Fortunately we are holy the moment we respond to the call of God within. And of course fasting, or any Christian discipline, can make a slavish bore out of anyone of us, such is our innate desire to grasp at anything that might grant us some form of status others must needs recognise.

Yet I want to find something more of Christ this year and one tool I see my forbears drawing upon is this use of the fast. It is also something I shall want to understand how it can take over my raison d’etre as a follower of Jesus, much as Gollum and Bilbo wrestled with ‘My Precious‘ in their quest.

The Oratory awakes today to continue its work of prayer in silence and solitude, grateful for those who have visited on retreat or for conversation throughout 2015 and looking forward to welcoming those who find it throughout 2016.

May you have a rich and blessed 2016. Happy New Year.