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The Ecclesiastical New Year in the Orthodox Church
What is the Ecclesiastical New Year and why is it celebrated September 1?
On September 1, the Orthodox Church celebrates the beginning of a new liturgical year. But… why September 1? To answer this question, we must go back 1600 years.
In the fourth century, the Roman Empire under Constantine the Great (306–337 AD) began to utilize a 15-year cycle called the Indiction (from the Latin, Indictio) for tax assessment and administrative purposes. Over time, this system – which commenced around the first of September – was adopted within Christianity to symbolize the beginning of the liturgical year.
The selection of September 1, specifically, as the Ecclesiastical New Year is grounded in various factors.
It aligns with the start of the natural year in numerous agricultural societies, signifying the end of summer and the arrival of the harvest season.
It serves as a poignant reminder of the essentiality of renewal and spiritual growth that Christians are called to embrace.
It is closely associated with the commemoration of the creation of the world, as noted by the creation of the Byzantine calendar and the Orthodox liturgical tradition.
IMPORTANCE FOR US TODAY
The observance of the Ecclesiastical New Year provides us with an opportunity for introspection, repentance, and revitalization; it is a time for us to reflect on the creation of the world and our fall into sin. This encourages us to give thanks to the Lord for our own creation, reflect on our own, personal falls, establish spiritual goals, and strive for a deeper connection with God. Liturgically, this celebration is accompanied by special prayers, hymns, and readings, serving as a continual reminder of the utmost significance of spiritual renewal and the ongoing pursuit of God's grace in our lives.
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THE LITURGICAL CALENDAR
With its cycle of fasting and feasting, the Liturgical Calendar serves as a rubric for Orthodox Christian life. Each day is marked by specific scripture readings, commemorations of saints, and prayers; each week by a cycle of symbolic commemorations and fasting; and each year by a journey through the life of Christ, his mother, and the saints.
Here is an overview of some major feasts and saint days in the Orthodox Church calendar, beginning with the celebration of the New Year on September 1 (of course there are many other saint days and commemorations that occur each month as well):
September 1 - Ecclesiastical New Year, Indiction - beginning of the liturgical calendar
September 8 - Nativity of the Theotokos - birth of the Virgin Mary
September 14 - Exaltation of the Holy Cross
October 1 - Protection of the Mother of God
November 8 - Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the other Bodiless Powers
November 15 - Beginning of the Nativity Fast
November 21 - The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple
December 6 - St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
December 25 - Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
January 1 - Circumcision of the Lord, St. Basil the Great
January 6 - Theophany of Our Lord
February 2 - Meeting of Christ in the Temple
February 15 - Meeting of the Lord in the Temple
March 25 - Annunciation to the Mother of God
Palm Sunday (Sunday before Pascha) - Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem
Pascha - Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ (sometimes as late as May)
Bright Week - week following Pascha
May 21 - Sts. Constantine and Helen
June 24 - Nativity of St. John the Baptist
July 20 - Prophet Elias (Elijah)
August 6 - Transfiguration of Our Lord
August 15 - Dormition of the Mother of God
August 29 - Beheading of St. John the Baptist