by Fr. John Reeves
Actually, it is September, the beginning of another Church year, and another school year. Things seem to get back to normal after summer, whatever normal is. Another cycle of life and worship starts anew; we settle back into routine.
Marking cycles of time has historically served two purposes for man: one, the obvious, immediate cycles of day and night, months, and seasons marked times for work and rest, the hunt and harvest—things needed for survival, day by day, week by week, month by month.
Yearly cycles began to mark something else, however, taking on deeper meaning, not merely the present and ongoing but the past as well, recalling ancestors and their stories, their triumphs and their tragedies. In other words, the yearly festivals became ways to celebrate who a people were.
In the Old Testament, we find examples of both—Sabbaths and New Moons and Harvests, as well as new years, (annual) days of atonement, Passover, and the Giving of the Law. By keeping them all, weekly and yearly, the Jewish people gave a meaning to life which set them apart from that of their (heathen) neighbors.
Holy Days in September
NATIVITY OF THE THEOTOKOS
Vespers: Sunday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m.
Liturgy: Sunday, Sept. 8, 8 a.m.
EXALTATION OF THE PRECIOUS
AND LIFE-GIVING CROSS
Vespers: Saturday, Sept. 13, 6 p.m.
Matins: Sunday, Sept. 14, 9 a.m.
Liturgy: Sunday, Sept. 14, 10 a.m.
God created Light and Darkness, labor and rest. As well, God continued to act in the midst of His people. The annual cycles and festivals tended to commemorate His ongoing actions, signs of hope for and His enduring presence with Israel. Time took on new meaning.
So it is with the Church. Weekly cycles combine with annual ones. God’s providence in our lives and His activity in our history gives us meaning, hope and purpose. We are not merely ambling through time, but God is moving and acting in our midst. This is precisely why we celebrate Holy Days: the Twelve Great Feasts, the other major Holy Days in the lives of Our Lord, His Mother, and the Forerunner, together with all the Saints’ days throughout the year. They are annual memorials of historical events: God has acted in our midst and is wondrous in His Saints.
The days of the Church calendar give meaning, hope and purpose to our lives as Orthodox Christians which the world does not know and cannot comprehend. That is, they give meaning, hope and purpose if we keep them. Otherwise, one day will be as the next and all that is portended by their observances will pass us by. Life dwindles away and time loses its potential for transformation, both of our lives and that of the cosmos.
So, see you in September: Nativity of the Theotokos, (September 7-8); and Exaltation of the Holy Cross, (September 13-14).