In the name of the father and the son of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen. Brothers and sisters in Christ.
Happy New Year.
This is a beginning of our new liturgical year, basically time around the whole events of Christ life. So we start out with the birth of the mother this month. And we’ll go through all of the events that Christ did so that salvation was made available to us. And so, at the end of the service, we’ll have a prayer for the blessing of the new year and to take a look at different things.
Well, I want to look back to A couple weeks ago we were talking about Gregory Nazianzus, and he said, “Why do we sing in the churches?” It comes out of the Old Testament, basically because they were in captivity so much that they couldn’t sing. And only when they were freed again by God did they start singing again. They could sing what they believed in, what their God has done for them. And often we have to do that. We can always think we got to get this done, but God has already destroyed our enemy, death, and makes it available to us. The Holy Spirit is already working with us constantly to work out our salvation, to take advantage of all these good gifts that he freely gives us. I think we have to be reminded, too, that we need to keep singing, because if we don’t, our songs become kind of meaningless to us.
You know, if you got a good song, you like to sing it over and over and over again until, you know, a few months down the road that a new song comes. Well, there’s no new song to sing about our salvation. And so we will sing it as long as we can.
We also pray, that we can live in a country where we can worship as we wish. Whereas many, many, countries can’t do that. And we think it’s normal for us. But it’s not necessarily normal historically. And who knows what the future will bring? And so we find a closer communion with our God, especially in times of trouble. The New Year, the liturgical year, clear, ended with the beheading of John the Baptist.
And we sometimes forget that. You know, I always wonder why is that at the end of the year? He was beheaded because people didn’t want to listen to him.
I think in some ways we have to be really careful that we don’t somehow spiritually chop off the heads of some people, that we don’t want to listen to. The fathers of our church. Those who have given us wisdom and those who have protected the faith through the history. Without the apostles, there is no going forward; without the holy chalice, there is no going forward. There is no going forward without the fathers of the church defending how God revealed himself and the instructions he gave us so that we live, believe properly at all times.
So we have to be careful who we listen to and why we listen to them and who maybe we don’t listen to. And this is something we can attend to as we, you know, enter the new liturgical year. The other person commemorated today, is St. Symeon the Stylite. This is the early times, first couple hundred years. He sits on top of the terror most of his life.
And and he basically builds that pillar up and up and up.
And people from all over the lands come to talk to him because he’s somehow gained a spiritual communion with God. But it’s emblematic of the idea that we need to leave a lot behind. We need to get not so entwined with things that aren’t going to last and don’t let it interfere with our time where we can begin to commune with God, which is eternal. It is part of the worship, is part of what we read. It is part of what we do. And to attend on to our homes, souls within; the kingdom of God is within. So we have to rise up above the maddening crowd like Zacchsus did.
We get so occupied that, we begin to lose our focus on who Christ is and who we are as Christians. And so we must be attentive because others’ teachings change all the time. And the whole idea of the word Orthodoxy is you can’t change God’s teachings. Christ is the word of God and He is who he is. We can’t change Him. What people do is change about what they think about Him and the mystery of the body of Christ through time is to preserve who He is and how He revealed Himself and what He asked us to do. We’re doing nothing other than what He asked us to do and what He did himself. So there is a chance to distract ourselves from all the chaos that goes on. And if we look at the icon of St. Anthony, as we remember what he says, “I see in the traps of the enemy laid out before me.” The traps of the enemy are really there to basically change our minds about who Christ is and what He did for us and to believe other things. So there is a warfare going on. St. Symeon the Stylite, also as we if we read in in the service and that’s what’s beautiful about reading and singing the services is that they call him “The Pillar of Patience”. When I read that the other night and I went, oh, that hurts. You know, we’re not going to get too far without patience.
And if you look at the scriptures and there’s all these things, there’s trials and tribulations and all the things that we go through, and the last word is then we have patients. Everything in our life is working. So we become a patient, peaceful person. Patience and virtues are not something we can create or go by a go buy in the shelf of a store. They are the reality of who God is. And we’re being patient so that God, to allow them to grow within us and take advantage of the gift of immortality that He gave us.
So as we look on to this new year, let us be attentive to really what are we going to start out with? We do need to change. You know, it’s basically another chance that God gives us.
Sometimes we don’t give anybody a second chance, or a third chance, or a fourth, or a fifth.
Every year is another reminder that God gives us another chance. Take advantage of the things I get. He knows we don’t grow instantly overnight and become perfectly holy people, but we know that holiness is growing within us. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we cloud it. We go on our own path and we just leave the Holy Spirit standing there on the side of the road.
We have another chance. So think about that. Sometimes I don’t think a lot of us, wish we had other chances at times, but God always gives another chance.
He works constantly. He’s always available to come to us when we really sincerely want him. He’s not the author of evil. He’s not here to punish. He’s here to free us. And that’s what comes from the liturgical year. And yet many people are afraid of freedom. They don’t want to necessarily know the truth about themselves, because that’s what it means. But God is there to heal and to work and to teach us about virtue and to let that virtue, not just a teaching aof n idea, but the reality of those virtues kindness, gentleness, compassion, mercy, long suffering, mourning, properly grieving. These are things that he wants us to grow inside our soul rather than bitterness or judgment or hate.
So God gives us another chance.
Not to do on our own, but to do with him. To let him into our lives so that we do this. We know the prayer of the Holy Spirit. You come to me, you teach me, you lead me, you guide me. One of the biggest things we have somehow have to learn at times, and we talked about it yesterday, is our own helplessness. Help us. Why? Because we need help. It’s just like a husband, you know, you need a helpmate. Why? Because you need one. See? And that’s important. And so that’s the great Mystery of the Church, where people who are one, together in our prayer and our thoughts, and two, are one that needs the help of God.
And this is the greatest lesson I think we can learn. We studied that yesterday in Unseen Warfare.
So I ask that you attend to some of these thoughts and you look at it in the new year. You take advantage of this chance. Make a list of things that you want to do differently. You know, we do that at the new year. You don’t need to merge and then exercise more, you know, on and on and on.
No, I want to give time to work on my soul. I want to let go of things that are perishable anyways; there’s a lot of things that we hold on to that are perishable. We spend our time holding on to things that aren’t helping our soul.
So let’s take a look at that. You all know things that you can change. So why don’t you make that obligation to yourself this week as we look forward. May God bless you with this new year. At the end of the service will do an epistle, a gospel, and will bless the new year for all of us. And may God bless you.
“Creator of the universe, setting times and seasons by Your sole authority, bless the cycle of the year of Your grace, O Lord, guarding our rulers and Your nation in peace, at the intercession of the Theotokos, and save us.”
Troparion of Beginning of the Indiction