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The Year of the Lord’s Favor

by Rev. Romanos V. Russo
photos: God With Us Catechetical Series, Pittsburgh, PA 15214


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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)

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Tags: Christianity Prayers/Hymns/Saints