On September 1 the Church celebrates the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year. Seems odd to celebrate the New Year in September doesn’t it? So often we find the rhythm of the Church’s life to be so different than what we are used to in our daily life. For example the Church’s day begins at sundown not sunup, we set the date for Pascha (Easter) using an old calendar, and the hours are even marked differently—first hour, third hour, etc.
Of course the reality of beginning the year on September 1 is not meant to be different just to be different. Rather, the cycle is connected to something more ancient and perhaps wiser than what our modern world teaches.
For the Church the year is centered around the events and the life of Jesus Christ. This backdrop forms for the Church its cycle and its direction. In looking at the calendar we find that the Church marks time by celebrating or commemorating aspects of and highlights from Jesus’ life throughout the year.
The text for September 1 comes from the Gospel of Saint Luke, 4:16-22. In this passage Jesus quotes from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah saying:
“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 heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
In commemorating the New Year on September 1 the Church is calling our attention to the power of the Good News as preached by Jesus Christ. We know from our experience that we need to be reminded again of the message contained in the Gospel. We know that the seasons of the year although repetitive can provide for those of us willing to listen another opportunity for transformation. Thus each Christmas (Nativity) is not the same as the year before and each Lenten season has new lessons.
In order to enter this Ecclesiastical New Year properly we must make resolutions as we do each year at the beginning of the calendar New Year. Doing so paves the way for a profitable spiritual journey, one that moves us more deeply and obediently into the life and the message of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Happy New Year,