Today, in “On the Square,” we have two topical articles. In the first David Hart offers his thoughts on New Year’s Eve, which are somewhat different from R. R. Reno’s, which he wrote about in his column yesterday. “Now that I have a family of my own, we do observe the changing of the calendar year in our own tepid way,” he writes in New Year’s Titanic Gods .
A glass of champagne at midnight on New Years Eve, a few mince piesthat sort of thing. My wife, being English, also likes to scare up a few Christmas crackers to pull open, for the amusement of our son, who quite likes having a reason to stay up late.
But, on the whole, it is still a minor observance for us, and nothing to compare to the celebrations we like to hold on Twelfth Night, the eve of Epiphany, when the last of the Christmas presents are opened, games are played, and the decorations come down from the tree. (I know many Americans think of Christmas as a single day and like to clear away the trappings of the season well before the fifth of January, but that is sheer barbarism, if you ask me, morally only a few steps removed from human sacrifice, cannibalism, or golf.)
In the second article, the philosopher John Haldane offers a meditation on the Mother of God, whose solemnity is celebrated tomorrow (and is for Catholics a holy day of obligation). In Visions of Mary , he describes his own experience of devotion and the theological disagreements, and then explains the deeper reason for the devotion:
The key to this flowering of Marian devotion beyond the canon of scripture perhaps lies somewhere deeper in the idea of the relationship of mother and child: first, physically intimate, then nurturing and protective, next instructive and authoritative, and finally reversing into dependency. The idea of an eternal, all-powerful deity stands remote from human experience, but the idea that God entered the world through Mary and was subject to her care and direction provides an intermediary through whom pleas and petitions may pass.
Haldane, by the way, is the author of Philosophy Lives in the January issue.