On October 21st, 1892, the United States celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the new world. The year-long celebration, declared by President Benjamin Harrison, was highlighted by the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, which ran from May 1 until October 30, 1893. The monumental fair, which drew more than 27 million visitors, was a symbol of America's industry, innovation, and exceptionalism. And so it was fitting that Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, considered one of the world's greatest musicians, performed at the fair. Conducting the Chicago Symphony in front of a crowd of 8,000, Dvorak received a two-minute ovation.
Dvorak had recently composed his Symphony No.9 in E Minor. 'The New World Symphony' is a uniquely American symphony. Dvorak made it for the United States and based it off of American melodies, also having been inspired by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The United States at the time was still considered 'the new world.' It no longer is. We might be the 'first world,' but we are not new. Catholicism, which has been around far longer than the United States, is, paradoxically, the 'new world.' "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1).
We are the new world, and we always will be. "Behold, I make all things new," says our Lord (Rev 21:5). This is because our 'old worlds' constantly end. When an individual Catholic turns away from a particular sin, deepens his prayer life, learns about a mystery of the faith, or matures morally, his apocalypse has come and he enters a new world. Something similar happens for the Church at large each era.
We likely will not hear the famous final movement of the New World Symphony this Christmas. But this feast can, indeed, be the ushering in of a new world.