Christ is among us!
Happy New Year!
Historically, from the time of Caesar Augustus, September 1 had been the ordering of taxes (indiction) for the next several years. The practice continued after the conversion of Saint Constantine. (A side note – there is strong evidence that the first monarch to convert was King Philip the Arab in the area of Galilee in the third century. He was of the Church of Antioch and therefore a Melkite!) But I digress…
This evening, therefore, as the sun sets at 7:55 P.M. in Fort Worth/Dallas, the new year begins. Remember that for Eastern Christians out sense of time is not from midnight to midnight but from sunset to sunset, following the account of Genesis where a new day begins at sunset (Genesis 1:5).
More so, Christianity being the fulfillment of the Old Testament inherited many of its practices from the Old Testament Jews. The Jewish new year begins on Rosh Hashanah. Since it follows the lunar calendar it is a moveable date; nevertheless, it always falls during the month of September.
Why September? It is harvest time, when preparations for the winter and following year are made. Note the pattern: “The evening” of the old year begins “the morning of the new year.
According to Jewish history, the month of September is also the month when the Israelites entered the Holy Land after the Exodus from Egypt. It was a new beginning for them. Being a time of a new beginning, Melkites and other Eastern Christians, therefore, have the tradition that on September 1 Our Lord entered the synagogue in Nazareth and quoted the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah, concluding with the astounding proclamation: “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4: 16-22). It is the Gospel passage read in the Melkite Divine Liturgy for September 1.
Liturgically, the first major feast day of the new year for Melkites and other Eastern Christians is September 8 – the Nativity of the Theotokos. (Interestingly, the last major feast day of the year is the Dormition of the Theotokos – August 15.) The birth of the Mother of God begins the preparation for the birth of the Christ – Jesus of Nazareth – who inaugurates the new creation!
Two key liturgical texts for the day of September 1:
Troparion of the New Year – Maker of the universe, O Lord who alone have power over seasons and times: bless this year with Your bounty, preserve our country in safety and keep Your People in peace, through the prayers of the Mother of God, and save us.
Kontakion of the New Year – O Word of God, who exist before all time, You have created all things in wisdom: and by Your all powerful word, you organized the whole cosmos. O Lord, bless the crown of the year, which in Your goodness You have allowed us to begin; and cast down all heresies, O Lover of Mankind, through the prayers of the Mother of God.
Happy New Year! Let us keep one another and this fledging Outreach in prayer.
In Christ our God,