Guest Viewpoints

September 1: Happy Ecclesiastical New Year!

September 1, 2023
By Chrissie Apples Nicolles

The Ecclesiastical New Year that begins September 1st is often overlooked. Also known as the Feast of the Indiction, which comes from ‘Indictio’, the imperial decree announcing tax collection activity in support of the Empire’s military defense.

The Orthodox Church inaugurated a feast, which became an important date on the Byzantine calendar, on the 1st of September in honor the victory of Emperor Constantine the Great, who decreed in favor of Christianity after beholding sign of the cross in heaven.

A pious tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church holds that Jesus of Nazareth began preaching His mission on September 1st. Luke [4:17] “Jesus entered the synagogue to announce His mission; He stood up to read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … because He has anointed me to preach the good news;

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to proclaim year of the Lord.”

In 1989, Patriarch Demetrios made 1st of September as ‘Day Of Prayer For Creation.’ Pope Francis established ‘World Day of Prayer’ too.

When the New Year arrives we say goodbye to the old and welcome the new.
(And let’s add Name Day of my late Greek ‘mitera’, Efterpi, September 1st).
Our human, finite state needs fresh starts and September 1st is one of them.
“Behold I will do a New thing. New wine will come in New wineskins”.

A spiritual brother, Archimandrite Maximos Constas told me after the loss of my saintly Elder Hilarion: “There are always gems – illumined beings, despite all the inadequate lemons in the religious body and the unhinged world”.

Isn’t it so?

So I’ll share my spiritual experience… one year after death of His Eminence Hilarion, he came to me… standing in his long black robes and white beard with a message: “I have met the Hierarchy in Heaven… and remember, no matter how dark the outer world gets, never leave your heart space… never let go your monastic shield.”

Yes, the ‘experiential’ is alive and well; Hilarion knew my obsession to build a holy Skete is a daunting task; try asking most Archons to invest in this project, and they don’t get it … but propose a casino – oh that they’ll do! Talk about awards and medals and parties – that they’ll do.

Yet look at the Saints, who lived the ‘Angelic Life’, who reached Theosis, and performed supernatural feats, healed the sick, and levitated above the ground and materialized food from thin air…

No, the true ‘Axioi’ never got medals and didn’t live in luxury; some lived inside the trunks of trees! I dare say, I’d much prefer to live on the floor of a hut with St. Paisios than to live in palace with a vacuous billionaire with no capacity to bring me to mystical Shangri-La.

I therefor propose that, starting September, we Christians take time from the vortex of frenetic busy-ness and continuously recite the Byzantine Jesus Prayer… we’re supposed to be ‘human beings’ – not ‘human doings’.

“Be Still And Know I Am God” we are told.

And the married can also revere and practice the Hesychest way, the monastic view that posits a perfectible road to our divine Nous.

Orthodoxy is both a corporate church and a mystical church… thus, I extend big thanks to Archbishop Elpidophoros for writing a beautiful homage to monasticism.

Yes, the ecclesiastical new year is often overlooked – I myself stumbled upon this fact. Last year in August, after a heated exchange with old friend, Fr. Alex, when sounding exasperated, he told me he’s leaving the country and won’t talk to me till the “new year”!

I thought to myself, Fr. Alex must be mad if he’s not communicating till January. Of course, a few weeks later in September – he did.


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