FUN FACT: It is the Orthodox Church’s New Year!

Tuesday, the 1st of September, marked the Church’s New Year. This is the day that the Church commences its yearly calendar, with fasts and feasts enriching, sanctifying, renewing and edifying our daily routines throughout the seasons.

Since 1989 ( when the late Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I issued a message on the environment) the 1st day of September simultaneously marks the annual ‘Day of Prayer for Creation.’

Like other feasts and fasts of the Church calendar, the New Year is especially an opportunity for us all to renew and enrich our faith in Christ, to faithfully follow Him and live by His commandments. Every day of the Church’s calendar is an invitation to a new way of life – that of repentance.

This New Year is a chance for us to turn over a new leaf, make a fresh start regarding how we pray, how we treat our neighbours, how honest we are with ourselves, how we care for, and appreciate, God’s creation. His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, in His Encyclical for the New Year directly calls upon you, the young people of the Church: ‘We call upon young men and women to realise the significance of living as faithful Christians and contemporary people. Faith in the eternal destiny of man strengthens our witness in the world.’ The fact we believe in, and experience the love and the eternal truth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, within the sacraments and teachings of the Church, means we should then reflect this in our way of life and relationship with the world around us. Christian life equates to a healthy balanced life and leads to a special relationship with our environment. ‘The sacraments of the Church, its entire life of worship, its asceticism and communal life, the daily life of its faithful, express and generate the deepest respect for creation,’ writes the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Let us use this beginning of the new Church year in order to dedicate ourselves to God and one another, growing closer to Him by reading and studying His Word, cultivating prayer in our lives, attending the beautiful services throughout the year, and fasting from any form of evil and sin. Time, for Orthodox Christians, is a gift from God, to be used well and fruitfully. God, Who is beyond all time and space, invites us in this life to share in His eternity. We must not forget that ‘the world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.’ (1 Jn 2:17) According to the tradition and teaching of our Church, living with God (eternally) is the natural state and process of human life, for He has created us in His image to be in communion with Him forever. ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Let us joyfully live in unity and harmony throughout this new year, appreciating one another, gratefully glorifying God and resembling His Saints. How can we start this process? Our efforts can bear fruit this new year only when our lives are centred on the common cup, the Holy Eucharist:

“In the Eucharist ( Holy Communion ) we can find all the dimensions of communion: God communicates himself to us, we enter into communion with him, the participants of the sacrament enter into communion with one another, and creation as a whole enters through man into communion with God. All this takes place in Christ and the Spirit, who brings the last days into history and offers to the world a foretaste of the Kingdom.” (Metropolitan John Zizioulas: Communion and Otherness)

Today’s Prayer:
‘Creator of the universe, setting times and seasons by Your sole authority, bless the cycle of the year of Your grace, O Lord, guarding our rulers and Your nation in peace, at the intercession of the Theotokos, save us.’