Divine Liturgy every Sunday at 10 AM

Monday, August 31, 2015

Church New Year

The first of September marks the start of the Church year, according to the Orthodox Church calendar*. The apex of the liturgical year cycle of Orthodox worship is the feast of the Resurrection of
Christ - Holy Glorious Pascha** (Easter). All elements of Orthodox liturgical piety point to and flow from Pascha, the celebration of the New Christian Passover. Even the “fixed feasts” of the Church such as Christmas and Epiphany which are celebrated according to a fixed date on the calendar take their liturgical form and inspiration from the Paschal feast.

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The Church New Year


The Orthodox Church Year begins, as does the Jewish Year, in September, and Pascha may never fall before Jewish Passover. Western Easter can and has fallen before Jewish Passover on more than one occasion. The Church considers that to be inappropriate.

The first major feast of the year is the Nativity of Mary the Theotokos, and the last major feast is the Dormition (Assumption) of Mary - the feast of the birth of the one who gave birth to He Who RESURRECTED from the dead. Then we celebrate the minor feast of a saint, the life of one who lived her life in the hope of the Resurrection.

The hymnody within each of the major and minor feasts always points to the Resurrection, and when the intercession of a saint is requested it is because the Hope of the Resurrection is so sure that we can know that a saint is in the presence of Our Lord interceding for us and worshiping alongside with us.

In our major feasts we do not simply celebrate the Resurrection, but we also recognize in our fasting (... not My will, but Yours be done... ) the suffering that came before that Resurrection and that is among us before Christ's Second Coming and our personal resurrection.

In addition to the Paschal cycle of worship with the “weeks after Pentecost,” and existing together with it, is the Church’s worship for each particular day of the year, each of which is dedicated to certain saints or sacred events. Each month has a special liturgical book called the Menaion which contains the specific service for each day of that month. The solemnity of the day is proportionate to the importance and popularity of the given saints or events to be commemorated.

There are twelve major feast days of the Church which are universally celebrated: the Nativity, Epiphany, Presentation to the Temple (called the “Meeting”), Transfiguration of Christ, the Nativity (Christmas), Annunciation, Presentation to the Temple and Dormition of Theotokos (Mary), the Exaltation of the Cross, the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, the Lord’s Ascension and the feast of Pentecost. Pascha is not counted among the twelve major feasts of the Church since it is considered by itself as “the Feast of feasts.”

Blessings be upon you all.
Tuesday, September 1, marks the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year, when the cycle of liturgical commemorations begins anew. The existence of this separate New Year’s commemoration, distinct from the civil New Year on January 1, serves as a reminder both to Christians and to the World. The Church, it proclaims, is not bound to the institutions of this world, but rather stands apart from them. The Church, existing in the world but never being of the World, celebrates according to its own calendar and its own traditions, and not according to the World’s schedule. It is, thus, fitting, that on this same day the Church commemorates Saint Symeon the Stylite, a fifth-century ascetic who confounded the World by setting up his hermitage on top of a pillar in the middle of the market in Aleppo. By publicly living a vigorously Christian life, separate from the worldly conception of success and prosperity, Saint Symeon gave powerful witness to the Gospel, especially of the command “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”(Matt. 16:24)
May this coming year bring boundless opportunities to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel in our increasingly anti-Christian and worldly society. Let us also resolve, with God’s aid, to increase our personal spiritual striving, in prayer, fasting, and repentance.

Yours in Christ,

Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS (Joseph)
Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic

* -The Church Calendar consists of a series of cycles by which feasts are celebrated in the Orthodox Church. There are currently three calendars in use in the Church, the Julian Calendar ("Old Calendar"), Revised Julian Calendar ("New Calendar"), and Gregorian Calendar ("New Calendar").

** - Greek Πάσχα Paskha, Russian Пасха, from Aramaic: פסחא‎, cognate to Hebrew: פֶּסַח‎ Pesaḥ or Passover. http://orthodoxwiki.org/Pascha


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