A new year has begun—but almost everything that comes to meet us is an inheritance from the past. That is because we are collectively dragging the ballast of unfinished business along with us. Wherever you look, unresolved conflicts and wars, increasing climate- and environmental crisis, poverty, hunger, and repression. In countless ways we are entangled in problems. What is really new in this new year, aside from a new stack of old disorders?
Undoubtedly a large part of the world we have ourselves created is incurably ill. But even when someone or something is mortally ill we can still do something. For that is what we do for patients and for people who are dying. How does something that is old and sick and degenerated become new again?
In some cultures there are expressions for this that are used for the smallest form of community, marriage. They use the names of substances that show that through mutual fidelity and love the marital bond becomes stronger all the time: the copper, silver, golden, and diamond wedding anniversaries. And although crisis and conflict are inevitable in practically every marriage, although sometimes love has to come from one side, although the partners only become older, weaker, and more infirm, the alchemy of love makes that the bond is gilded or crystallizes like a diamond.
This is not only true for marriage, but for all forms of community. Love and fidelity can be practiced anywhere—at work, with your housemates, in the care for humans and animals. Also when you have been totally thrown back onto yourself, even then it is necessary to remain faithful to the earth, no matter how sick it is.
Alchemy is the art of making something out of nothing, of turning a perishable world into an imperishable work of art. Alchemy is more than change—it is transformation, transubstantiation. Ultimately, only love is capable of this. When everything goes wrong, when nothing can stop the decline of the dying earth existence, love is the only means of creating a way up in the way down.
And when human love is crowned by the love of God, when love comes from two sides, we both begin, imperceptibly, invisibly, to construct a new world: the golden wedding anniversary of heaven and earth.
Rev. Bastiaan Baan, January 1, 2023
 For resp. the 12½, 25, 50, and 60 year wedding anniversaries.
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