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Happy New Year!… But it’s September!

September 1, 2010

Did I really say Happy New Year? Yes I did. Today, September 1st, begins the Church Calender. But why September 1st? I was attending Vespers on August 31st, and heard a bit of the history on how the Church came to begin the year on the first of September. According to the short teaching my priest gave, while the Jewish calender begins with the month of Nisan – which corresponds to our March (Begun by the Passover as recorded in Exodus), the Roman civil calender began in September, on the 23rd. The Jewish calender began around the time of the Spring Equinox. The Roman calender began around the time of the Autumnal Equinox, which was the 23rd of September. I believe some time in the 7th century, the date for New Year was changed to the 1st of September. The Church followed calender. However, the Church did not change its calender to begin the New Year on the 1st of January, some centuries later.

As Fr Patrick points out, the Fall and Harvest time is a good time to begin the year. Kids return to school, the fruits of the year are gathered, etc. We begin our cycle of Liturgical Feasts and Fasts in this month. The year begins with the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, and ends with her death and glorification with Christ. Even though Christ is the Lord and focal point of all our lives and existence, Mary is a type of the Church. So it is not inappropriate to have the calender begin and end with her commemorations. Besides, everything about her that we honor, is really honor towards Christ, who is the Incarnate God that came into the world through her womb.

One of the things that Fr Thomas Hopko points out in his reflection on the Liturgical New Year, is that commemorating the beginning of the year for the Church is a chance to “redeem the time”. By this he means that we remember the Lord in all that we do. What better way to begin the year, than by meditating on the Lord in His Church?

Let me share one of the prayers of this day’s liturgical observance: “O Word of the Father from before the ages, Who, being in the form of God, broughtest creation into being out of nothing; Thou Who hast put the times and seasons in Thine own power: Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness; give peace unto Thy churches, victory unto Thy faithful hierarchs, fruitfulness unto the earth, and Great Mercy unto us.”

Fr Patrick (my priest) pointed out that the phrase “Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness” is from Psalm 64:12, and would have been sung liturgically by the Jews during their commemoration of the New Year, and possibly at Rosh Hashanah, the harvest time festival, which is literally called “the head of the year”.

Even though I have now been actively pursuing Orthodoxy for more than a year now, I can say that with a better understanding of observing the celebrations and commemorations of the Church, I am ready for a fresh Church Year. As I continue to prepare for my reception into the Church (though I do not yet know when it will be), I am glad to have the opportunity to “synchronize” myself, so to speak, with the Church.

Keep my family and I in your prayers during this year. And, once again, Happy New Year!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 2, 2010 7:14 pm

    Happy New Year, brother! 🙂

  2. September 4, 2010 12:17 am

    For a half a century I too often clearly notice that many of the Orthodox persons I know they do not practice what their church preaches still. My very religious Orthodox father used to often visit the grave site of many of his deceased friends to pray for them but my father was never known to be charitable or kind to anyone , not even to himself. He used to justify it by saying to me why should I do something good to someone else when they never did anything good to me. Many orthodox persons do honor and venerate St. John to a extreme such as my father also had often did too but I had often wondered why when my father was never willing to make the needed personal changes in his own life, to bring fruit worthy of repentances.. Maybe that was why they admired St John so much cause he did make the necessary changes. All People who are willfully disobedient to God, falsely still insist on doing their own thing and not doing it God’s way will next miss the boat, and they will not enter into heaven.. for God does not bless disobediences. Cain was a good example of this.

  3. Sean permalink
    September 4, 2010 1:31 am

    The beginning of the church year is called -Ίνδικτος- (Indhiktos) in greek and is a hellenized version of the latin word “indictio”, which means “declaration” and was used to mark the issue of the decree by the Roman Emperor that declared the form and height of tax contributions for a 15-year-long period. It is a way of counting years in 15-year-long intervals beginning from the Nativity, or, rather more accurately, from 3 AD. Initially there existed two versions of Indictio, the Imperial Indictio, established by the Emperor Constantine I, also called Constantinian or Greek, and the Papal Indictio. The date of Indictio was traditionally the 24th of September, changed to 23rd during the reign of Gaius Octavius Thurinus (Gaius Iulius Caesar Augustus, the first Emperor of the Roman Empire) because he wanted it to coincide with his birthday. Gradually the Indictio came to mean the beginning of the Year Cycle, and was adopted by the Church as the beginning of the church year. In 462 AD it was moved to September 1st for practical reasons (so that the first day of the year would coincide with the first year of the month).

    • September 4, 2010 8:09 am

      SEAN!
      How have you been? Good to hear from you on here again. Thank you for sharing that bit of history. I tried to do a bit of research to make sure I had some of the dates right. Hearing a short homily at 6am doesn’t make for great memory retention.
      It is interesting to see how many things that shape world history are simply the vanity of an emperor. Most of the time I don’t even consider the origins of our calender. It reminds of the genealogy of Christ. So many sinners were a part of the ancestry of the Lord. We take that list of people for granted, when in reality they were a part of salvation history.
      Thanks again Sean.

      • Sean permalink
        September 5, 2010 6:47 am

        🙂 You are welcome.

        I may not post often but you can trust me in saying I read all your posts at least once 🙂

        Don’t worry too much about facts and dates, I myself cannot remember them correctly as well.

        As for many things having as source the vanity of an emperor, well, in truth our lives are influenced deeply by decisions, passions, whims, acts of evil or goodness of people we do not even know, even more so of people who have left their distinctive mark in history. It is awesome, and a bit unsettling too, come to think of it.

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