Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A PRAYER FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE CHURCH YEAR (Indiction) SEPTEMBER 1ST
Christ our God, Your Kingdom is an everlasting one and Your Lordship is over all. You have made all things with wisdom and have established proper times and seasons for our lives. We give thanks to You in all circumstances and for all things. Lord, bless the beginning of our Church year with Your Goodness. Grant that this Liturgical Year be for all of us a year of grace. Make us worthy with purity of heart always to praise You. Lord, Glory to You! [From Orthros [Matins], September 1st]
For the maintenance of their armed forces, the Roman emperors decreed that their subjects in every district should be taxed every year. This same decree was reissued every fifteen years, since the Roman soldiers were obliged to serve for fifteen years. At the end of each fifteen-year period, an assessment was made of what economic changes had taken place, and a new tax was decreed, which was to be paid over the span of the fifteen years. This imperial decree, which was issued before the season of winter, was named Indictio (Indiction), that is, Definition, or Order. This name was adopted by the emperors in Constantinople also. At other times, the latter also used the term Epinemisis, that is, Distribution (Dianome).
It is commonly held that Saint Constantine the Great introduced the Indiction decrees in 312 A.D., after he beheld the sign of the Cross in heaven and vanquished Maxentius and was proclaimed emperor in the West. Some, however (and this seems more likely), ascribe the institution of the Indiction to Augustus Caesar, three years before the Birth of Christ. Those who hold this view offer as proof the papal bull issued in 781 A.D. which is dated thus: Anno IV, Indictionis LIII-that is, the fourth year of the fifty-third Indiction. From this, we can deduce the aforementioned year (3 B.C.) by multiplying the fifty-two complete Indictions by the number of years in each (15), and adding the three years of the fifty-third Indiction.
There are three types of Indictions: (1) That which was introduced in the West, and which is called Imperial, or Caesarian, or Constantinian, and which begins on the 24th of September; (2) The so-called Papal Indiction, which begins on the 1st of January; and (3) The Constantinopolitan, which was adopted by the Patriarch of that city after the Fall of the Eastern Empire in 1453 A.D. This Indiction is indicated in their own hand on the decrees they issue, without the numeration of the fifteen years. This Indiction begins on the 1st of September and is observed with special ceremony in the Church.
Since the completion of each year takes place, as it were, with the harvest and gathering of the crops into storehouses, and we begin anew from henceforth the sowing of seed in the earth for the production of future crops, September is considered the beginning of the New Year. The Church also keeps festival this day, beseeching God for fair weather, seasonable rains, and an abundance of the fruits of the earth.
The Holy Scriptures (Lev. 23:24-5 and Num. 29:1-2) also testify that the people of Israel celebrated the feast of the Blowing of the Trumpets on this day, offering hymns of thanksgiving.
In addition to all the aforesaid, on this feast we also commemorate our Savior's Entry into the synagogue in Nazareth, where He was given the book of the Prophet Isaiah to read, and He opened it and found the place where it is written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for which cause He hath anointed Me..." (St. Luke 4:16-30). [This scene is depicted in a Vatican manuscript].
It should be noted that to the present day, the Church has always celebrated the beginning of the New Year on September 1st. This was the custom in Constantinople until its fall in 1453 and in Russia until the reign of Peter Ist. September 1st is still festively celebrated as the New Year at the Patriarchate of Constantinople; among the Jews also the New Year, although reckoned according to a moveable calendar, usually falls in September. The service of the Menaion for January 1st is for our Lord's Circumcision and for the memorial of Saint Basil the Great, without any mention of its being the beginning of a new year.
Saint Dimitri of Rostov exhorts the following for the Feast of the Indiction:
"Therefore, offering Him thanksgiving, let us celebrate that acceptable year of the Lord, for we have received many and ineffable good things from His hand. Let us make haste to be well-pleasing in His sight. Let us celebrate, not the Indiction enacted by the Roman emperors, but that which has been ordained for us by Christ, the Heavenly King of Glory. The tribute due to Christ from us on the occasion of the Indiction is the keeping and the fulfillment of His Holy Commandments, for Christ our King does not ask of us iron and brass. Neither does He exact silver nor demand gold, as David has made clear, saying to Him: "Thou art my Lord; for of my goods no need hast Thou" (Psalm 15). That we might with an upright heart believe in Him, He requires of us not iron and brass, but the virtue of faith, grounded firmly and strongly in Orthodox piety, which is founded upon the bloodshed by the holy Martyrs, who were tortured for the Christian faith with weapons of iron and implements and vessels of brass, as it is said: "His life was spent in irons" (Psalm 104)...Instead of silver, Christ our King requires of us the virtue of undoubting trust in God, which more than silver assures a man of a prosperous life...Such is the immaterial silver which the Lord requires of us. He commands that we trust not in riches, which quickly perish, but that we trust in the Living God, whose words "are pure words, silver that is fired" (Psalm 11)...Instead of gold, Christ our King demands the most precious virtue, unfeigned love for God and our neighbor, always represented by the teachers of the Church as gold because of its great value. Just as gold is more precious than silver, brass, or iron, so love is more honorable than hope and faith, as it is written: "And now abideth faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love" (I Corinthians 13).
The Orthodox Church now celebrates the Christian Indiction rather than that of the ancient heathen, "having put off the old man with his deeds, and having put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Col.3). Thus let us celebrate the New Year as the Holy Apostle counsels us, saying: "We should walk in newness of life, that we should serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" (Romans 6). Let us celebrate the Indiction, submitting to the ordinance of the Lord our God that was delivered through Moses, which is now read from the Book of Leviticus: "If you walk in My statutes, and keep My Commandments, and do them, then I will give peace in the land, and you shall pursue your enemies and I will look upon you, and bless you, and My soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be My people" (Leviticus 26), says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel."
Apolytikion (Dismissal hymn) in the Second Tone
Creator of the universe, setting times and seasons by Your sole Authority, bless the cycle of the year of Your grace, O Lord, guarding our rulers and Your nation in peace, at the intercession of the Theotokos, and save us.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
You Who created all things in Your Infinite Wisdom, and set the times by Your Own Authority, grant Your Christian people victories. Blessing our comings and goings throughout this year, guide our works according to Your Divine Will.
This is interesting historically, but what is the spiritual significance of the New Year for us? It is this: that the end of each year and beginning of the next reminds us that time is precious, and we must not waste it. Indeed, the time of our lives is the fundamental gift of God has given us, to be used wisely and offered up to Him for our salvation, or to be used foolishly and offered to the devil unto our condemnation. We know that we should tithe of our money and material resources to God, but do we also realize that we owe Him a tithe of our time and talent as well? This about it: if you counted all the hours each week which you spent in prayer, service to the Church, and acts of charity, would it amount to 10% of your week?
Let us seriously re-examine our priorities as they are revealed not in our imaginations but by the concrete evidence: the use of our time. And let us offer to the Lord a New Year in which these priorities will be altered to please Him first, for the salvation of our souls.
With sincere agape in His Holy Dikonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God