Letting go of the old in order to make way for the new is part of life’s cycles of beginnings and endings, birth and death. Just before midnight at the dawn of each new year, many Irish people continue the tradition of opening the back door of their home to let the old year out, and the front door to let the new year in. As seasons change and Winter turns to Spring, St Brigid’s Day (1st February) marks an end of the darkness and the beginning of a new season of hope and growth; the old St Brigid’s Cross is burned and the new one hung in its place. So too, in life, we know that letting go of what is weighing us down and holding us back is necessary to make space to welcome in something better. Newness brings possibility, hope and potential.
In today’s Gospel, the disciples on the road to Emmaus remind us how easy it is to remain stuck in the old and comfortable way, instead of allowing the new thing to come. The old way was a lonely and painful place, yet the disciples didn’t realise the moment of transformation was right before their eyes! Recognising the risen Jesus at the breaking of bread was instantly life-changing.
I bring to mind some of my own ‘breaking of bread’ moments… There have been times when I have instantly recognised God willing me to change and to choose a new way, guiding me to see the possibility and potential in different areas of my life; trusting completely in God’s loving guidance to transform and to grow. The following poem reminds us of this necessary transition that reflecting on Luke 24:13-35 invites us to make:
Life is full and overflowing with the new.
But it is necessary to empty out the old to make room for the new to enter.
The emptying out process can be very painful, but it is very necessary
for when you have been emptied of the old, you may experience that feeling of barrenness, of having nothing to hold on to, of being alone and bereft of everything.
You may even feel that I have forsaken you, that life is completely dead and empty with no meaning to it, and you want to throw up your hands in despair and run away from everything.
Try to realize that if you are going through a time like this, it is this process of being emptied of the old so that you can be refilled with the new.
Never give up hope
but hold on
until you can start again
in newness of spirit and in truth….” Eileen Caddy – Footprints on the Path (1976)
Image: The beach in Derrynane, Co. Kerry. (From Prayerful Ireland)