The Church New Year

Canadian Orthodox Messenger

The Church New Year

Although January 1st is the beginning of a new calendar year, there doesn't seem to be anything that really denotes that. After all nothing really changes with the new year; it is as dark and cold on January 1st as it is on December 31st. This being said, everything changes when September 1st comes along.

With cooler evenings - a prelude of shorter days, fields of ripe wheat, barley, canola ready for harvest, people heading back home from cottages and camping, and children heading back to school, just about every aspect of our life changes. It seems so very fitting that Church recognizes this change by denoting September 1st as the beginning of its year.

Even though January 1st was the beginning of the Roman year, September 1st was noted as the Indiction, a term to mark the reign of the emperor (and more importantly to pay taxes) and this developed into the de facto new year. As Roman/Byzantine civil rule and the life of the Church became more intertwined, the Indiction was used as to mark the time and significance of the state, and by extension the Church.

The Gospel that is read on September 1st illustrates not only the change from summer to fall, but also marks the time. The Saviour proclaimed, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:16-22).

The Church new year marries this change of routine and seasons with changing our own hearts and the hearts of those around us. We are called to preach the gospel to those who are starving for the good news of mercy and grace; release the captives bound by grief, fear, loneliness; bring recovery of sight to those blinded by the passing promises of power and security; and to liberate those oppressed by passions and sin. 

These actions might seem as impossible as getting  teenagers up for school at 7:00 am after two months of sleeping in, but if we recognize that this is the "acceptable year of the Lord", we make profoundly manifest His saving presence in ourselves, our families, and the world around us. No fireworks could ever be more brilliant than this.