ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

A discussion of the Byzantine liturgical year.

It was on the Jewish New Year that our Lord returned to Nazareth, the place of his upbringing, and attended synagogue. To him fell the honor of reading the 61st passage from the prophet Isaiah:

St. Luke tells us that all looked on him fixedly as he announced, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

To this day Christians of the Byzantine Rite begin their church year in September just as our Lord did on his earthly sojourn. The fathers of the First Council of Nicea established the first day of September as the New Year in honor of Constantine’s victory that day over Maxentius as a result of which Christianity was recognized as legal. Earlier custom had March as the first month of the year because of the tradition that Adam was created in March and the Incarnation of the new Adam, Our Lord Jesus Christ, took place in March. It was the month of the vernal equinox with its promise of the rebirth of nature. Even now we recall that March was originally the first month of the year by the fact that the months September, October, November and December mean literally seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months, respectively.

The Byzantine liturgical year harmonizes the past, present and future: it bids us look to the past which it makes perpetually present as we await the (second) coming of Christ. This is why we begin on September 1 to look forward to the Nativity of our Lord by calling to mind the cloud of witnesses that foretold or prefigured the incarnation of God the Word.

On September 1 the Church recalls Joshua, son of Nun, the first type of Jesus in the liturgical year. Jesus is the Greek form of the name Joshua, which means “he will save.” Joshua led the first-chosen people across the Jordan into the Promised Land. On September 4 the Church remembers Moses-who-saw-God. In Deuteronomy 18:15 he predicted the coming of the Messiah:

Our Lord applies this prophecy to Himself in John 5:46 “It was I that he was writing about.” Nor can we forget that our fathers saw in the bush unburned a foreshadowing of the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos (Mary). On the 5th we call to mind Zachary and Elizabeth, the parents of the forerunner, St. John the Baptist. On September 8 the feast of the nativity of the Mother of God and on the 9th that of her parents, Sts. Joachim and Anne give us new insight into the words of the psalm “of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.” (Psalm 131:11) On the 22nd it is the turn of Jonah – the only sign that will be given to the sinful and adulterous generation (Matthew 12:39) prophet of the death and third-day resurrection of our Savior. On the next day, September 23rd, we commemorate the conception of St. John the Baptist:

On the 29th we pay homage to the prophet Baruch who acclaimed the Wisdom that would appear on earth “and have conversation with men” to “grant them eternal joy by saving them.” (Baruch 3:38 and 4:29)

On October 1st we enjoy the Protection of the all-holy Theotokos and on the 9th, Abraham, the father of all the believers, who obediently offered his son in sacrifice because he knew that “God is able to raise the dead to life.” (Hebrews 11:12, 17-19). On the 17th the prophet Hosea recalls to our memory the words which God spoke through his lips “I will deliver them from the power of hell…I will heal their faithlessness, I will love them of my own free will and they will return to sit beneath my shadow.” (Hosea 13:13, 14 & 14:5,8). On the 19th of October it is Joel’s feast day: the prophet of Pentecost.

On November 15th we begin the proximate preparation for the feast of re-creation, Christmas, by engaging in the struggle of the forty-day Phillip-fast, so-called because it begins on the feast of St. Phillip. On the 19th the Church hallows the memory of the prophet Abdias who wrote “For the day of the Lord is near for all the nations.” (Abd 1:15) On the 21st the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple shows the faithful that she has become the Temple in which God will dwell: “Arise, O Lord, and go to thy resting place, Thou and the ark of thy holiness.” (Ps 131:8)

On December 1st the prophet Nahum proclaims: “Behold, on the mountains the feet of Him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace.” (Nah 1:15) On the 2nd Habacuc again stands on his watchtower to pray: “Lord, in our times, renew your work; let it be known in our times!” (Habacuc 3:2) The next day sees Sophonias prophesying the restoration of Israel: “Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.” (Soph 3:14) On December 9th the conception of St. Anne causes us to reflect that “heaven is created in Anne’s womb, whence the Duskless Sun will shine forth His light.” On the 16th Aggaeus proclaims the word of God: “Courage…to work! I am with you and my spirit dwells in your midst. Just a short delay and the glory of this Temple will outshine the old one” (Aggeaus 2:4,9). On the 17th we remember Daniel and the three young men whose faith was stronger than lions and fire. The youths in the fiery furnace recall the bush unburned with the prophecy and promise: the virginity of the Theotokos will not be destroyed in giving birth to the son of God just as our humanity will not be destroyed when it is made a sharer in God’s divinity.

Finally we enter into the Holy of Holies, the inner precinct of the temple. Before us is the veil behind which God’s presence-among-men (Emmanuel) beckons us to communion: the Sunday of the Forefathers and the Sunday of the Genealogy.

This then is the path that the Churches of the Byzantine Rite set before us to bring us to the celebration “in spirit and in truth” of the birthday of “a little child who is God from all eternity.” Follow with the Holy Scriptures the feast and fasts as so many signposts showing us the Way!

Rev. Romanos, a frequent contributor to Catholic Near East, acknowledges his indebtedness to Andronikoff’s Le Sens des Fetes in preparing this article.

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español