THE NEW CHURCH YEAR
By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
Today, the first Sunday in September is the first day of the New Ecclesiastical Year. It marks a new beginning, a fresh start for the Church. In most prominent religions other than Christianity, there are celebrations of a new year, a new beginning. For example the Native Americans would make all new pottery for their homes, then break the old pottery and begin using the new at a celebration that was held annually. It was a time for spiritual renewal for them, as well as a physical renewal for the Native Americans.
For Orthodox Christians, this is our celebration of a new church year. The major feasts of Pascha and Pentecost are behind us, we now look forward to renewing the cycle of remembering Christ's Holy Life. In the months ahead we will remember Christ's birth during the Advent and Nativity Season. We will celebrate His Holy Baptism, which made the waters of Baptism Holy and Life-Giving for us. Today the cycle of the commemoration of Christ's Life is starting over again.
There is wisdom in this renewing cycle. As we observe the seasons change, we also observe the Scripture readings, and Fasts and Festivals of the church change. Each reading, each Fast, each Festival is designed as an aid in teaching us the Holy Life of Christ and His Compassion for us. In the early church people were not educated like we are today. Many could not read and write. They depended on the church to teach them the Life of Christ. They looked to the Church to educate them in the way to follow the life of Christ.
The Holy Church responsive to the needs of the people, used Holy Icons, Scripture, and Fasts, and Feast Days to teach the people. A person could enter a church and look at the Holy Icons and receive a beautiful sermon in color. A window to Heaven, a way to learn through sight and touch. Veneration and respect of the Holy Icons, (teaching windows to Heaven), included kissing the icons as an act of showing their love for the saints depicted on the icons, not out of worship of the icon, but as a symbol of love and respect for Holy Things and people. If you will notice, the Saints depicted on Icons are not graven images, but Transfigured Images. Just as a soldier might take out a picture of his wife and children and kiss them before he falls asleep at night to express his deep love for them, so we as Orthodox Christians kiss the Holy Icons to express our love for our Brethren in Christ who are now part of the Church Triumphant in Heaven. The soldier is not worshiping his family by kissing their pictures, he is merely expressing his love for his family. The same holds true for the Orthodox Christian that kisses a Holy Icon.
This is the first Sunday of the Liturgical year, let us make a pledge within ourselves to live this year with the Church and Christ as our focal point. Let us make an effort to put Christ first in our lives. When your life revolves around Jesus Christ, you will notice that everything falls into place as it should.
Many people look for different focuses in their lives, they often center their lives around things other than Christ. When a person centers their life around temporary things, they are almost always sorely disappointed by those temporary things, only to end up lost and disoriented.
A person that centers their life around Christ and His Holy Church will live a well balanced life. The focal point of this personís life will always be there, it will be a shining beacon to lead them to the truth. Christ said, "Seek Ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and its Righteousness, and all things will be added unto you"! This is truth! Jesus Christ should be your focus for this new Liturgical year.
Why do people fail in their resolutions, why do people become dis-enchanted, and lethargic? Itís because their resolutions are based on earthly things. They are based on things that will perish. When you make a resolution to focus on Christ, the object of your focus will never fail, He will never forsake you, He will never perish, and by making your focus on Him and His Holy Precepts and Teachings, you will never perish as well.
No matter what your profession, no matter what your marital status, no matter what station in life you are currently hold, you are welcome to start over with a new beginning. Refresh yourself in the Holy Spirit of God, all of us have the ability to declare a new beginning and leave the past behind us.
Letís take this opportunity today as the Holy Church begins a new Liturgical year, to start over, to remember the Grace we received from our Baptism, to dwell on things that are Holy and Righteous, to worship in Spirit and Truth, to follow the Holy Teachings of Christ, to make Him the very Center Point of our lives. In other words, letís have a blessed new Church Year through the Grace of our Lord.
A PRAYER FOR A NEW BEGINNING
By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
As we start our new Church year, O Lord, we ask that You would enable us by the power of The Holy Spirit to place our lives entirely in Your Holy Hands. Grant us Lord, Your Divine, Saving Grace that we may live according to Your Holy Precepts.
Guide us, teach us, empower us with the strength to over turn temptation. Establish our souls on firm, solid ground, that we may build upon a foundation unshaken by the woes of this sinful world.
Cleanse us from every stain or defilement of flesh and spirit, that we may start our new beginning revitalized by Your Holy Grace.
Hear us, Heavenly Father, as we acknowledge that on our own, we do not have the power to make or follow through on any resolution. But by calling upon Your strength and guidance, we may accomplish this new beginning. AMEN.
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