Saturday, September 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Tora! Tora! Tora!

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.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone

You who created all things in Your infinite wisdom, and set the times by Your own authority, grant Your Christian people victories. Blessing our comings and goings throughout this year, guide our works according to Your divine will.

Gospel reading

Luke 4:15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. 22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?

Though the creation of the world took place in the month of April, and thus at the beginning of Spring (Exodus 12:1-20, 51), the years began to be counted only after Adam’s expulsion from Paradise, because -the Garden of Eden being ‘Heaven on Earth’- it was impossible to measure time while standing in the all-encompassing presence of the transcendent Lord and eternal God. But, with mankind’s subsequent fall – which probably took place in the Fall, since the Fathers make repeating, recursive references to man sojourning a number of ‘seven’ days, maybe years, or perhaps decades, -some say even centuries (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8)- in the Garden – the seventh month of the year was chosen for marking the beginning of counting time. Thus, September 1 became the Ecclesiastical New Year (Leviticus 23:23-44), the Old Covenant bestowing sanctity and holiness upon the seventh day and seventh month, while the New Testament hallowed the first day and month, thus expressing its belief in, and reminding us of, Christ’s restoring, redeeming and recapitulating mission, through His saving messianic work.

As we read our way through the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, we witness a gradual increase of temporality, as well as materiality, happening before our very eyes. On the first day, the ethereal light comes into existence, only to be followed on the second by the fluids, through the separation of the gaseous atmosphere from the liquid hydrosphere, and, on the third, by the earth’s solid crust emerging from below the great, dark surface of the all-engulfing primordial ocean.

At the same time, we see the immeasurable eternity slightly unfolding itself by the gradual appearance of clockwise mechanisms, capable of dividing and quantifying the before-then ungraspable essence of its primordial Chaos, into which the Same divine Logos plunged as into a deep, vast sea of darkness, crying out aloud to the inert, disordered Nothingness: ‘Let there be light !’ ... ‘and it was light’ – thus the first day ever came into being: the first and smallest natural way of counting time, by the repetitive and undisturbed succession of days and nights: ‘and it was evening, and it was morning – day one’.

Three days later, on the fourth of the week of creation, the luminaries came into existence, ‘to divide the day from the night’ – thus reinforcing the power of the before-made distinction; and to ‘be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years’ – thus not only increasing the strength to what has been previously made, but also adding new elements of temporality: for the Moon does not only measure the night, but also the months; and the Sun, in its turn, measures not the day only, but also the years ... and not only that, but, by creating the Sun on the fourth day, while letting the Moon achieve its fullness only on its fifteenth day, He shows us His great Wisdom, by revealing before-hand to us the eleven day difference between the Solar and Lunar years.

The number of the fourth day, chosen for the creation of the time-measuring celestial bodies, is not taken merely by accident, but is meant to reveal unto us the fourfold division of each of the dimensions of our threefold Universe, thus reminding us of the Priestly breastplate of judgment, consisting of four rows of three stones each: the four seasons which crown the yearly cycle: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter; the four corners of the earth: North, South, East and West, -or the four spatial directions: forth, back, left and right-; and the four elements, created on the first three days: light, air, water and earth.

But the year is not the only fourfold time-unit: the day itself consists of four such periods: morning, day, evening and night. Thus the parallel between each of the four day-periods and the four seasons of the year becomes suddenly clear: Spring is as morning, Summer as day-light, Autumn as evening, and Winter as night. The last consists of three months: December, January and February, making the second analogical to midnight. Autumn, on the other hand begins with September. The Gregorian calendar counts the days from midnight till midnight and the years from January to January, whereas the Julian one, on the other hand, counts the days from evening till evening and the years from September to September. – A perfect parallelism!


Rob said...

Happy New Year!

Perhaps that doesn't set the right tone. :) I know our liturgical year begins with Advent, a time of fasting and remembrance of the darkness before the Coming of Christ at the Nativity.

Lucian said...


Stay tuned! There's more coming: the article is not finished (yet).

P.S.: Have You already read my answer to Your question? I've left another comment in the combo-box of the article below this one. (I hope that it will finally answer Your question).

Rob said...

Yes, I read the material and it was fascinating, but it still does not answer the more pedestrian concern I had, which was simply: where did the Baptist go when he died?

It's not too important though and may not have ever been answered, either for that reason or because it is unanswerable.

I like the bit about the Torah not saving man so a man became the Torah.

Lucian said...

St. John the Baptist was in Hell (Patristically so understood -- not Gehenna), together with all the Old Testament saints and righteous, beginning with Abel, Adam, and Eve. All the men that lived before the time of Christ -whether upright or unrighteous- went there, fore-tasting their future rewards (in the 'bossom of Father Abraham'), or torments, suffering and punishment (Gehenna - 'flames and worms') -- see the Parable of the rich man and Lazarus. With the comming of Christ, the souls of the righteous enter the provisory state of Paradise (Luke 23:43), which was taken up to Heaven, and hidden by God -- there Enoch and Elijah were also hidden. After the general Resurrection and final Judgement, they will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Lucian said...

And what do You mean by "may not have ever been answered ... because it is unanswerable" when both hymns of the feast clearly say:
you proclaimed to those in hell God who appeared in the flesh

he preached to those in hell the coming of the Savior


Rob said...

Hmmmm. I guess I don't know whether that means he went to Hell or not. I mean, if he was in Hell, how could he have had this Freedom? Seems like it was the job of Christ himself to preach salvation in Hell. How much "antiquity" is backing this hymn?

Lucian said...

The Forerunner fore-runned the Christ of God by his presching of Him not only in this world, but also in the other one as well. (Another parallelism).

Lucian said...

Here's a link that might be of help to You:

All that I can tell You is that it is Patristic (all men before the Advent of Christ descending to the Netherworld -- even the Orthodox Ressurection Icon is an example thereof), and that it is Traditon (his preaching in to those in hell the Christ of God, being a Fore-runner of Christ both here on earth, as well as to those awaiting Him in the Grave).

I've searched Menaions on-line, and even went to the Church near-by (my block-of-flats is situated right beside the Church-bulding) to look for the Menaion on August, and all that I could come up with is that it is a work of John the Monk -- DON'T ask me who he is, or when and where he lived.

The Encyclopedia-articles (CathEn, Wiki, OrthWiki) on the Menaions don't say anything about the time of their compostion, which only turned out to be just another dead end -- sorry `bout that too!

Lucian said...

After (1) a very easy and simple Google-search on the phrase "John the Monk", and (2) a little bit of appeal to Christian Orthodox common (or general) knowledge ==> I've concluded that Mr. John Doe above is none other that the great Church Father John Damascene himself. :-)

1) ALL the Google answers, without exception, linked to ONE man, and one man ONLY : St. John of Damascus.

2) The vast majority of Orthodox hymns are basically written by just a handfull of guys: (an Orthodox musical-dogmatical "ace quad", if You like) : Romanos the Melodist, John Damascene, Andrew of Crete, and Theodore the Studite.

3) This guy's name is almost ubiquitous: he appears in A LOT of days in the Menaion, and also fathered well-known and widely-used Orthodox hymns: the Prayer Canon to the Guardian Angel, for example. -- so, in other words, he HAS to be famous.

Rob said...

I was lurking on an Orthodox site revently and I read a reference to "Monk Damascene" and I wondered if this was John Damascene (7th century? 8th?) or someone more recent.

Also, you should love this.

Lucian said...

I have no ideea, but they were probably talking about Damascene Christensen, which was Fr. Seraphim Rose closest friend and disciple. (At max, show me the spot on the site, and I'll be able to answer the question more precisely ... or not). And why didn't You just simply ask the guys there what in the world they were talking about? Were You maybe afraid blowin' Your cover? :D [You little Vatican-spy, You! ;-) ].

Rob said...

Oh, everyone is so learned on these sites (half the comments, RC or EO, on Sacramentum Vitae make my head spin). I prefer to stay in the shadows. I am very knowledgeable in History, but in the history of theology I know only a little more than the average layman.

Lucian said...

So, ... tell me, Rob, ... is that Little Inquisitor, Papa Ratzi, puttin' You up to this task ? (i.e., makin' You spy on these inconspicuous conspiring little spirituquists back on Sacramentum Vitae ?). ;D
I mean ... first the Motu Propriu, then the little (er, ahem, uhum) 'clarification', and now this? :D

Rob said...

-first the Motu Propriu, then the little (er, ahem, uhum) 'clarification'-

July 7 and July 10 will live long in my memory! We thought we didn't know what the Catholic Church was for some forty years and then, Papa spoke, and we said, "Oh yeah, Catholicism."

The best compliment came from Alexis II when he said "Now we know how far apart we are." Of course, liberals take it as an insult. I just see it as saying, "Now we are telling each other the Truth and not pretending"

Lucian said...

Now we know how far apart we are.

Wouldn't be TOO sure `bout that: the Orthodox Church has always held to be THE One, True Church; the Catholic Church -on the other hand, however- has lost that particular hallmark of orthodoxy (i.e., regarding oneself as THE One, True, Catholic and Apostolic Church: "blah-blah-blah even gold-pieces from a golden Rock are golden, though they're only bits-and-pieces, and not the 'real-deal', or the 'real McCoy', etc. ; blah-blah-blah the Orthodox true Churches, though they're only just 'particular' or 'local' Churches; blah-blah-blah"). Now, with the Catholics re-turning to the true, Patristic understanding of Ecclessiology, we can REALLY talk business, if You know what I mean; otherwise, we would've just drifted further and further apart, and denaturating ourselves while at it. Actually, this so-called 'drift' is the first REAL attempt at truly coming together since Ecumenism began, fifty or so yrs. ago.

Rob said...

That's what I mean when I approved of Alexis II's statemnet, in that both Churches, at least at the hierarchical level, are being honest about the real differences that exist and not pretending to be brothers, although the RC does accept the EO churches as churches in a sense. The Orthodox view does not seem to be uniform. Some seem to accept RC as a Church with annoying differences, others simply say we are heretical and doomed.

Lucian said...

Actually, I meant that both Churches finally came to embrace the SAME Ecclessiology: they both view themselves as THE Church. And that I think that this will bring them closer together (if it hasn't already: i.e., their shared view on what the Church is [supposed to be]). So, I was talking about very specific issues; one, in particular, to be clear.

Rob said...

-And that I think that this will bring them closer together-

But not, sadly, to union. I don't see any way for that to be possible. And since union appears impossible, I think that entails ongoing conflict.

Lucian said...

Of course it won't bring us closer to union. That will never happen. I'm not suggesting that. We're not even going to get together with the Monophysists (who look like us, talk like us, walk like us, bleed like us), less so with Catholics.

Rob said...

You're going to put something up on Sept. 8th, right?

Or is that feast not synchronized East and West??