Someone has to say it: the millennium is a fraud, a fake, a numbers game that's an excuse for drinking, carousing, idiotic media lists, and "Man of the Century" foolishness.

The nonsense begins with the name. The new year will be the Year of Our Lord 2000. We may try to cover that up by replacing Anno Domini with Common Era, but that is dishonest. No Jesus, no millennium. If you don't like it, then come up with a new calendar system--and abolish Christmas while you're at it. Jesus is left out of talk about the millennium because he may embarrass those who are not Christians. One feels sorry for the embarrassment, though the opposition to Jesus comes more from secularists and atheists than from those who are not Christians. It is simply a lie to deny the influence of Jesus on the world.

In the year 284 the Emperor Diocletian decided that he would reform the Roman calendar. He ended the custom of counting years from the founding of the city of Rome (ab urbe condita), and decreed that the year he became emperor would henceforth be known as the year 1. Two centuries later a Scythian monk, one Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the Insignificant or today perhaps Dinny the Runt), proposed to replace Diocletian's calendar with one that started with the coming of Jesus. In his scheme New Year's Day fell not on January 1, but on March 25, the supposed day of the conception of Jesus. This custom continued for more than a thousand years until Pope Gregory XVI's reform of the calendar in 1582. It's a shame that the Pope changed the day for the new year. Had he left it as it was, secularizers would have had a much more difficult time denying the religious nature of the festival.

We now know that Dinny was off by five years, more or less, in his estimate of the birth of Jesus. So actually the millennium came in 1995 or 1996, and the world survived, much as it always has. Moreover, he began not with the year zero but with the year one. So the new millennium, even according to his calendar, doesn't begin until next year. Our blowout this year is a deception inside a mistake inside a lie. Moreover, enough people know that from the Pope on down to dismiss the hyperbole and the hoopla for what it is. Either the day has come and gone or it is still ahead of us.

Why all the dishonesty about the beginning of the third millennium since the coming of Jesus? In part because the media cannot abide deferred gratification. Let's celebrate now with our idiot lists and our silly specials and our pompous commentaries and our hypocritical expressions of guilt, and get it over with so that we can go on to some new phoniness next year.

I'm not all that excited about the Pope's Great Jubilee in Rome either. The Jubilee is supposed to be a time of forgiveness, but the Vatican doesn't seem to be very strong on forgiveness just now. It is unwilling to forgive women for being women, gays for being gay, and married people for enjoying sex. It won't let the Bishops of Britain and Ireland give general absolution to all their people during the Jubilee, which would be a marvelous gesture of forgiveness. Such a gesture just might recall to the world what the coming of Jesus meant--that God is, in the words of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, nothing but mercy and love.

That reality would indeed be something to celebrate--even by those who insist on the falsehood that this is not the Year of our Lord but the Year of the Common Era. We who are Christians should celebrate the reality of a God who is implacably forgiving every day of our lives and especially on the turning point days like New Year's, whether it is an "00" new year or not.

The Irish Dominican poet Paul Murray summarized the good news when he wrote that the God who gives all the gifts we give, who needs nothing, still needs us, that if one of us should cease to exist He would die of sadness. That, and not the chanting of crazies who expect the world to end, is the essence of the millennial message.

A New Year's celebration that does not emphasize that crucial message is a sham.

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