It’s our Ecclesiastical New Year, but you will not see any fireworks. It quietly comes once a year in September so that members of the Orthodox Faith can again experience, participate, and remember the 12 Great Feasts of our Church. This succession of feasts allows us to live the life of Christ from his very birth, or rather, from the birth of his mother. The church allows us to participate in the life of Jesus through Scripture, through icons, and through the liturgy. Orthodox Christians will draw on all three sources in order to enrich the lives and increase their knowledge and relationship with God.
With the rising and setting of the sun, with the moon and the stars, we learn that there exists a daily rhythm. The succession of days teaches us the weekly cycle, the seven days modeled on the account of creation (Gen.1-2:4). The liturgical year is in harmony with the seasonal cycle, according to the order to mature. Our feasts are inserted into the created world and give it all its meaning. This is no accident, for God has sent his Son into this world and is thus bodily linked to the cosmos. Each feast is an encounter between heaven and earth, between the Creator and his creature. The havens are rent (Is 64:1), and God descends toward us, dwells in created matter and infuses it with his Light.
The expectation of the Lord takes place in winter, in darkness: the birth of Christ comes as the solstice, “the Sun of Righteousness”: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light…” (Is 9:2; Mt 4:16).
Our hope increases as we prepare for Pascha, during Great Lent: the resurrection of Christ coincides with the renewal and awakening of nature.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit illumines the world and everything is enlivened. Nature is in its full glory. At the height of summer, Christ our true light, the uncreated Sun, appears transfigured on the mountain.
After Dormition, after the departure into heaven of the Mother of God, everything begins again. Autumn teaches us humility. The sun shines less brightly, less strongly, but with more gentleness. The days shorten, trees lose their foliage, the earth becomes barren, rests, and prepares itself for another cycle.
We are temporal beings and cannot deny the order to nature. The Church, by associating the seasonal cycle with the life of Christ, redeems time. Through Christ and the Holy Spirit everything receives life: the seasons, just as the liturgical cycle, never repeat themselves. Everything is always new (Rev 21:5).
An except from the
Feasts of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, Volume 1
Catherine Aslanoff, Editor of the French Edition
Translated by Paul Meyendorff
St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press
Crestwood, New York 2002