On Friday, January 1, the secular world will observe “New Year’s Day.” The Catholic world will not, for two reasons. One is that we have a genuine religious feast day to observe, in celebration of Mary, the Mother of God.
The second is that Catholics don’t find much use in celebrating the chronological movement from December 31, 2015 to January 1, 2016. Not because we are grumpy, and not because we are boring. Catholics don’t have much use for “New Year’s,” simply because we live on a different sort of calendar than the rest of the world.
The Catholic calendar is not progressive, in the sense that it does not continuously march on from one date to the next indefinitely, as does the secular calendar. The Catholic calendar is perpetually seasonal, cyclical, and repetitive. We like rote prayers, not just because we happen to have them memorized, but because we have accepted the rotary characteristic of our faith, our lives, and the world.
Shortened attention span created by technological gluttony and self-centeredness isn’t the only reason the secular world is bored by repetition. Fascination with the new is rooted in a worldview opposed to ours, which is enamored with the novel and dissatisfied with the static.
Pope Francis, for example, has warned of “those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress,” pointing out that they are largely to blame for causing the very problems that many contemporary progressives claim to be solving (Laudato Si, 60).
The progressive worldview has interesting origins from the perspective of religious history. Biblical religion brought with it a new emphasis on the idea of progress, in that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures testified to a cosmic significance in individual persons and actions that was somewhat foreign to the pagan philosophies.