Apparently there was a similar turn-of-the-millennium frenzy the first time around. Then, ecclesial and political tensions were preparing the traumatic events of 1054 and 1066. Now, high technology has advanced us to the point where we are expressing our apocalyptic Angst under the symbols of Y2K and "The Omega Code." But on the whole, little seems to have changed. If some parallels can be drawn between the eleventh century Cluny movement and certain modern trends toward monastic renewal across the ecumenical landscape, others, more ominous and more typical, can be drawn between the growing Christian-Muslim tensions that led to the First Crusade and the present state of affairs in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya. Smart bombs and plastic explosives have replaced spears and scimitars, but basically things remain pretty much as they were. We still fear each other, and so we still hate each other. Millennial Angst, even more than politics or economics, may explain these recurrent moods.
It's easy to make fun of the way we progressively deepen a circular rut and call it "progress." It's less easy to identify the causes of our obsessive need to make of every sin something dTja vu ("Been there, done that" -- and can't wait to repeat the experience). And still less easy to transform the circular rut into an upward pathway toward the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet that is what we are called to do, and it means transforming our millennial Angst into another, healthier emotion: hope. At its most sublime, this is what the apostle Paul calls "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).
A transformation of that magnitude, however, requires a view of the world and human history that was taken for granted in biblical times but has been relegated to the archives in the centuries following the Enlightenment. It is a view or vision that perceives God to be both Creator and Lord of all things. It acknowledges his unqualified and limitless sovereignty over every person and every event.
A real leap of faith, however, occurs between acceptance of the idea of a Creator and the biblical picture of God as both Redeemer and Father, one who not only brings all things into being, but also guides the development of all things toward their fulfillment. For this implies that God is personally and intimately involved in every aspect of created existence. With regard to ourselves, it means that our life is sustained and guided at every moment toward the end God intends for us, which is eternal participation in his own glorified, divine life.
How does this biblical perspective of God's sovereignty and God's love relate to the issue of millennial Angst? The most succinct answer is given in chapter four of the First Epistle of St. John: "Perfect love drives out fear." Our love is far from perfect. But we can understand that the love spoken of here, that becomes our own, originates with him who is Love itself.
Fear assumes countless shapes and forms. Each of them is evidence of a pathology, a spiritual illness over which, more often than not, we have little or no control. Millennial Angst is fear of the future, of the unknown and uncontrollable. As St. John further points out, it is an expression of our fear of punishment: by God, by others, even by ourselves, when we fail to live up to the artificially high standards we set for ourselves. "Fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love."
Nevertheless, dread of the future -- anxiety in the face of what lies ahead, be it in a day or a millennium -- is an illness that can be cured. "We love," the apostle concludes, "because he first loved us." And it is that ineffable divine love which enables us to surrender "ourselves and each other, and all our life, to Christ our God." It is that love which transforms anxiety and dread into the hope that has enabled multitudes of saints, and especially the holy martyrs, to put away their fears and to embrace their future with the conviction that God's loving will truly governs all things.
As we welcome in the new millennium, we can do so with confidence, peace and genuine hope. We can truly *welcome* it, knowing that what the future ultimately holds is the promise, not of failure, death and corruption, but of hope. The hope of glory.