Orthodox Christian: ‘Living’ Ecclesiastical Year begins

Photo in public domainSATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1: A fresh year begins for Eastern Orthodox Christians today, at the start of the Ecclesiastical Year. (Those following the Julian calendar will mark it in a few days. Wikipedia has details.) Reflecting a custom begun by St. Constantine in the 4th century, the year officially begins in September, divided into two groups: moveable and immoveable feasts. Although the year starts Sept. 1, all holidays and fasts are centered around the great Pascha (Easter); moveable feasts are, specifically, determined by the date of Pascha each year. Christians maintaining this tradition consider Pascha the “center” and highlight of the entire year, from which the rest flows.

The Orthodox year, from start to finish, consists of four fasting seasons and 12 major feast days: the fast of Great Lent before Pascha, The Nativity Fast before Nativity in December, The Apostles’ Fast before Ss. Peter and Paul in June, and the Dormition Fast before the Dormition of the Theotokos in August. Holidays vary between the Epiphany and Annunciation to the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. The significance placed on holidays (outside of Pascha) varies by congregation and region.

As with any living Church, leaders attest that the Orthodox year is always changing. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America writer Fr. A. Calivas states that, “Each age adds its own significant ecclesiastical events and its own martyrs and witnesses of the faith.” The faith—and its year—is constantly moving forward.

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