Often when we talk about old and new we are talking about the scriptures and the shift in the scriptures from the Old Testament to the New Testament. But do we recognize in our lives this shift also? In the Old Testament we have a focus on the law and the letter of the law and often times in our lives we are very "law filled ". This is how we did it in the past and we are not changing is a common refrain that reminds us of the law and the letter of the law. The New Testament invites us to reflect on the "spirit of the law and not the letter of the law". We can sometimes look at this as a shift from what I want to what does God want from me?
Going through the old monasteries gives a person a chance to see how the old and the new have been brought together. In the "old" days they had no electricity, no heat but as the world changed they found a way to add lights and heat to the old buildings. They kept the old and embraced the new. In the "old" days there were many monks and nuns, now there are only a few so they rent out space to people seeking a quiet moment in life. In the "old" days there was no running water and often the water was not safe so they brewed beer and made wine for themselves, now they live off the money raised from selling the beer and wine and drink water. In the "old" days the walls were rock, brick or plaster! maybe if it was a wealthy place wood. Now rock walls have been torn down and replaced with new walls with insulation.
But one of the most powerful things for me is walking into the chapel and seeing the consecration candles telling me that this holy place was built to stand forever, to be a place of God for all days. You cannot miss the marks on the wall where Chrism Oil was used to mark the Chapel or Church for the glory of God. But for every one marked to stand forever were hundreds like St. Patrick's, blessed to stand for awhile and then be replaced as the needs of the people changed.
The "old" are beautiful in some ways but more importantly they are a reminder that the church has moved on, we are not the "old" anymore, we are something new. The letter of the law is not going to get us to heaven, but the spirit will.
As I visit some of the "old" and I see the selling of the beer, wine, honey or the collection basket asking for help to maintain these old buildings I keep thinking of Jesus, "do not turn my Father’s house into a market place" but there we are, making His house a market place.
There are so many empty old churches in Europe, falling into ruin yet there are so many who claim to be Catholic and friends of Jesus, yet they don't go to His house to visit Him.
All of this just reminds me that it is not about brick and mortar, it's about a personal walk with Jesus, it's about a oneness with God found only in the Eucharist. Pope Francis keeps reminding us that we need a new Evangelization which has to start with each of us, we need to reexamine our walk with God, and how we live our lives as Catholics. Are we focused on Jesus in the Eucharist? Are we focused on the future of our faith? Are we handing on the faith to our youth? Are we living like Jesus, "foxes have holes, birds have nests but the Son of God has no place to lay His head".
What have I learned about the old and new? These old buildings here don't get one cent from the Holy Father, because it's not about bricks and mortar, it's not about buildings, it's all about Jesus.
It's time to let the old go; it’s time to let St. Patrick’s go. The day the Eucharist was taken from St. Patrick’s something changed, Jesus left the building. He is not there, He is risen.