“We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine; But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne. We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine; But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne. And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne. Should old acquaintances be forgot and never be brought to mind.  Should old acquaintances be forgot and old lang syne.” Robert Burns (new translation)

“What does this song mean.  My whole life I don’t know what this song means.”  Billy Crystal as Harry Burns 


Chicago is blanketed in beauty and today we are again the White City.  I can enjoy this if I stay indoors with my coffee and my thoughts…..thoughts of a new day and a new year.

There is a new digit on the calendar and if I do not read the news I can say for a little while no bad thing has happened this year.  Though a lovely thought, 2014 is also for a brief time, a year with no remembrances whether fond or otherwise.

It will not stay that way.  For me one of the first memories of the new year will be a shallow one for most people. I will have to watch the Spartans rather than the beloved Buckeyes play in the Rose Bowl.  At the game’s conclusion, the new year will already have a winner and a loser and I will have already seen the news where I will find the likes of the first baby born in the city this New Year and probably another horrific account of a bomb or something of the sort. By the end of the day there will be things to be remembered that will be both shallow and grand and the New Year will have already taken on both hope and devastation.

Just hours ago people raised glasses, kissed, blew horns, and talked of resolutions.  Then they joined hands and sang belting out a phrase they knew well and muttering made up words or repeating the chorus again during what would normally be verses.  That is too bad, but perhaps just as well.  In a frenzied revelry of fireworks and alcohol, who wants to be reminded of the poem by Robert Burns questioning if an old “friend”  with whom we climbed hills and picked flowers should be forgotten?  It is better to just to say repeatedly “should old acquaintances be forgot, la la la la la” then go home and sleep off the stupor.

Tonight people will join hands again and sing.  They will hold lit candles and prayerful lyrics will be printed that the words of quiet and beautiful songs are clear and unmuttered. The setting will be the warm interior of Ascension parish in the cold snow covered suburb of Oak Park.  There people will pray for peace in a violent world and unity in a fractured Church.

Last night, no one knew the words to the song they sang and most were perhaps too drunk to care.  Tonight people will sing not mentioning high places, carpets of flowers, gentle streams, and the broad sea, but they will know these gifts are too good to be marred by the likes of warfare and conflict.  They will share not the momentary kiss at midnight but the eternal kiss of peace as they look at those next to and around them and say this presence is too good to be forgotten, because there is a love that is even greater than the love which leads us to climb hills and pick flowers.  They will also raise no toast as they will together long and pray for the day when the hungry are fed and all people dine on sacred food and drink at one table. And they will let their songs be heard….songs not of times past, but of the world that is too come.

It is 2014, the city is blanketed in white.  We remember old friends and dream new dreams. There will be slopes to climb this year and flowers to pick.  There will be prayers that must be said and a sacrament to feed us.  We will be watched over by those dear to us who climb with us and pick flowers with us and we will be held in the care of the One whom gives us all those good things.  We will sing old songs of those momentary times of holding hands with old friends and we will sing new songs of the time eternal where we are carried in the arms of One whose love is like no other.

Image:  Taize Musicians, Creative Commons Maciej Bilas.


Taize is a town in France, where one can find an ecumenical order of brothers who profess a variety of Christian traditions.  Their community has become a site of pilgrimage for European youth and their style of silent prayer and worship is found in many parishes throughout the world, one of the largest services being held at Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park Illinois every January 1st for the World Day For Peace.



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