a new year of grace
The mystery of liturgical time… In God, there is but one moment, in which everything is included. The fullness of the liturgical year does not consist of the commemorative cycle of Christ’s life being resolved or completed, for the completion of a series implies that there is a series, a succession of disjointed elements. The fullness of the liturgical year has to be thought of qualitatively and not quantitatively: it is achieved if, on any day whatsoever of the liturgical year, whichever it might be, we are capable of grasping :: through the particular event which is commemorated :: Christ as a whole, the whole of His life, the whole of His work, the whole of His word. Each feast and even each day of the year thus becomes the fullness of the whole liturgical cycle. This cycle never repeats itself :: each one of its aspects reflects the inexhaustible depth and fullness of Christ, and as a result, becomes new for us to the extent that we understand it better. The liturgical year is a prism which receives the white light of Christ and splits it into different colors. Christ is the year.
a monk of the eastern orthodox church
The Treasure of Tradition Despite being united to Christ in the Orthodox Church some twenty years ago, there are still many of those little “t” traditions of which I do not know. When I joined the Orthodox Church the first thing I realized is that I don’t know anything, and not in a bad way at all, but a very very good way…. a way that allows me to incorporate the faith morsel by morsel so that I can digest it.
This year (just last night in fact!) I learned of the tradition to place an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos at the threshold of the door to our home as we usher in the new Liturgical (Ecclesial) Year of Grace.
In many conversations with non-Orthodox over the years, I have been struck by their idea that our little “t” and big “T” traditions are merely rote action. Yet, as one who seeks (and quite imperfectly, too) to live and raise a family in the faith, I find most beautifully that these “traditions” of ours are not rote or meaningless at all :: but rather beckon and re-orient our hearts to that which is needful.
Just as we pray corporately the Anaphora during the Divine Liturgy, these little “t” traditions are our “little a” anaphoras :: a lifting up and offering of ourselves. A simple, humbling endeavor, to place God above all, offering up our whole lives to Him.
It is Eucharisteo : Grace, Joy and Thanksgiving throughout the seasons of our lives.
These are just another way in which we lift up our hearts in this great litany of our lives. Little children in Greece make the sign of the cross when riding their bikes past a Church :: mothers entering Church remind their little ones to make the sign of the cross before they enter :: we light candles :: burn sweet smelling incense :: we trace the sign of the cross on our children when tucking them into bed :: prayers and prostrations dovetail together :: we kiss the icons and we greet one another with a kiss of peace :: we dye our Pascha eggs the reddest of red, but we don’t dye them on Holy Friday :: fresh basil is brought home from Church on the Elevation of the Cross and placed in the sourdough starters that will leaven phosphora :: and of course, we pray facing the east – our souls waiting for the Lord, like the watchman waiting for the dawn.
Again and again, in so many ways, we are called to this life in Christ. To live our lives through the years and seasons and rhythm of the Church. It is our great priority :: this great Liturgy of Life :: it is more needful than schoolwork, profession, sports and hobby :: and yet with life in Christ as our priority our ability to fulfill our schoolwork, professions, sports or hobby is in no way diminished. Traditions bring to light blessings :: even on the threshold of our very home.
Placing an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos at our doorstep – what a wonderful tradition to usher in the new Ecclesial Year :: just as the Ecclesia means “called out” :: the new Ecclesial year “calls us out” again, “to lay aside our earthly cares” and enter into the timeless rhythms and seasons of the Liturgical life of the Church.
The Orthodox Christian lives Ecclesial Year to Ecclesial Year :: Feast to Feast :: Fast to Fast :: Confession to Confession :: Liturgy to Liturgy :: Eucharist to Eucharist. Just as we have New Year’s resolutions to usher in a new calendar year, now is a great moment to pause, reflect and begin again.
Does my family have regular prayer time? If not, this is a time to begin. Are we attending Church weekly? That’s alright :: start this weeks Vespers and Liturgy. Has it been forever since my last Confession :: make an inventory, call your priest. Go.
And so today, on the dawn of a new ecclesial year, the faithful are hopeful standing on this threshold of Grace of a new year, with an invitation to redeem the time.
Blessed art thou O Lord, teach me Thy statutes.
Real life is Eucharist, a movement of love and adoration toward God, the movement in which alone the meaning and the value of all that exists can be revealed and fulfilled