Ecclesiastical New Year: Orthodox Christians reflect on cycle of the Church

Painting of workers gathering hay and grains at harvest time

In ancient society, harvest time was a season for reflection, gratitude and the start of a New Year. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1: A convergence of historical and biblical events places the Orthodox Christian Ecclesiastical New Year on September 1—a tradition dating back through the millennia. In an ancient agricultural society, harvest season meant gratitude and the recognition of divine blessings. Prior to the advent of the Julian calendar, Rome began its New Year on Sept. 1. Christian leaders also say that, based on the biblical record, Jesus Christ entered the synagogue on Sept. 1 to announce his mission. Today, Orthodox Christians use the New Year period to reflect and pray. (Learn more from the Orthodox Church in America). Some adherents recommit themselves to their faith, while others contemplate the New Year to come.

As the annual cycle of saint days, feasts, fasting periods, commemorations and more begins, the faithful examine the Orthodox Christian year. Through specific days and dedications, adherents can take the opportunity to consider people and events critical to the Church.

Ecclesiastical Year begins: Orthodox Christians renew cycle of feasts and fasts

Ornate church with gold cross in foreground, red carpet and paintings in the background

Interior of an Orthodox Christian church. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 1: The Indiction—a new ecclesiastical year—is ceremoniously welcomed by Eastern Orthodox Christians today, in a spirit of rejuvenation and joy. As the autumn agricultural season brings harvest, so, too, does the new year bring gratitude for the abundance of festivals, fasts and feasts that will once again be observed in the new Orthodox year.

History details that the Church long marked the beginning of a new year on Sept. 1, and this was the custom in Constantinople until 1453 CE. (Learn more from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.) At this time of year, Orthodox Christians recall the Gospel story of Jesus entering the synagogue in Nazareth, where he read from the book of the Prophet Isaiah, and they recall that the people of Israel celebrated the feast of the Blowing of the Trumpets. (Orthodox Church in America has details.)

Eastern Orthodox Christians mainly follow two calendars: the Julian Calendar and the Revised Julian Calendar, the latter of which coincides with the present Gregorian Calendar. Between 1900 and 2100 CE, there will exist a 13-day difference between the two calendars; the date of Pascha brings an exception, in that its date is calculated annually according to a lunar calendar, based on the Julian Calendar.