Saturday, September 9, 2023

On the New Year

(GOARCH) - For the maintenance of their armed forces, the Roman emperors decreed that their subjects in every district should be taxed every year. This same decree was reissued every fifteen years, since the Roman soldiers were obliged to serve for fifteen years. At the end of each fifteen-year period, an assessment was made of what economic changes had taken place, and a new tax was decreed, which was to be paid over the span of the fifteen years. This imperial decree, which was issued before the season of winter, was named Indictio, that is, Definiton, or Order. This name was adopted by the emperors in Constantinople also. 

At other times, the latter also used the term Epinemisis, that is, Distribution (Dianome). It is commonly held that Saint Constantine the Great introduced the Indiction decrees in A.D. 312, after he beheld the sign of the Cross in heaven and vanquished Maxentius and was proclaimed Emperor in the West. Some, however (and this seems more likely), ascribe the institution of the Indiction to Augustus Caesar, three years before the birth of Christ. Those who hold this view offer as proof the papal bull issued in A.D. 781 which is dated thus: Anno IV, Indictionis LIII -that is, the fourth year of the fifty-third Indiction. From this, we can deduce the aforementioned year (3 B.C.) by multiplying the fifty-two complete Indictions by the number of years in each (15), and adding the three years of the fifty-third Indiction. 

There are three types of Indictions:

  1. That which was introduced in the West, and which is called Imperial, or Caesarean, or Constantinian, and which begins on the 24th of September

  2. The so-called Papal Indiction, which begins on the 1st of January

  3. The Constantinopolitan, which was adopted by the Patriarchs of that city after the fall of the Eastern Empire in 1453.

This Indiction is indicated in their own hand on the decrees they issue, without the numeration of the fifteen years. This Indiction begins on the 1st of September and is observed with special ceremony in the Church. Since the completion of each year takes place, as it were, with the harvest and gathering of the crops into storehouses, and we begin anew from henceforth the sowing of seed in the earth for the production of future crops, September is considered the beginning of the New Year. The Church also keeps festival this day, beseeching God for fair weather, seasonable rains, and an abundance of the fruits of the earth. The Holy Scriptures (Lev. 23:24-5 and Num. 29:1-2) also testify that the people of Israel celebrated the feast of the Blowing of the Trumpets on this day, offering hymns of thanksgiving. In addition to all the aforesaid, on this feast we also commemorate our Saviour's entry into the synagogue in Nazareth, where He was given the book of the Prophet Esaias to read, and He opened it and found the place where it is written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for which cause He hath anointed Me..." (Luke 4:16-30). 

It should be noted that to the present day, the Church has always celebrated the beginning of the New Year on September 1. This was the custom in Constantinople until its fall in 1453 and in Russia until the reign of Peter I. September 1 is still festively celebrated as the New Year at the Patriarchate of Constantinople; among the Jews also the New Year, although reckoned according to a moveable calendar, usually falls in September. The service of the Menaion for January 1 is for our Lord's Circumcision and for the memorial of Saint Basil the Great, without any mention of its being the beginning of a new year. 

Apolytikion of Beginning of the Indiction 

Second Tone 

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 of Beginning of the Indiction 

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.

(Pemptousia) - Apart from the saints who are remembered on the day, on September 1 our Holy Church also celebrates the beginning of the Indiction, that is the start of the new ecclesiastical year. Among the hymns for the feast is the following, the kontakio for the Indiction, which reads as follows:  ‘Maker and Master of the ages, God of all, who are indeed transcendent, bless the course of this year and, in your boundless mercy, save all those who worship you, our one and only Lord, and who cry out to you in fear: Lord and Savior, grant a fruitful year to all’.

The start of the new ecclesiastical year marks the beginning of a new period of time. And the beginning of this new period of time raises the question as to how, when and by whom time was created.

The creation of time can be traced to the first chapter of the book of Genesis and, by extension, to the whole of Holy Scripture (Old and New Testaments) where the creation of the world is mentioned. According to Gen. 1, 1, ‘In the beginning, God made heaven and earth’. This verse reveals that the universe and time were created simultaneously and were brought from non-existence into existence by the all-wise, all-powerful and timeless Triune God.

This brief phrase sets out in a striking manner the fundamental triptych of the Biblical view of the cosmos: temporality (‘in the beginning’), creativity (‘made’) and personality (‘God’).

‘In the beginning’ is the crux, that is the point at which the cosmos and time emerge from non-existence into existence, at the divine command. According to Procopius from Gaza, the phrase ‘in the beginning’ implies ‘time’, the creation of which marks the creation of all things, which is why the creation of time preceded that of everything else, even the cosmos, though the interval was very small. Saint Basil the Great notes that time was created first and the creation of the cosmos followed so that the cosmos wouldn’t be considered as being eternal and without beginning.

Wishing to show that time is created and is subject to the will of God, the hymnographer who wrote the service of Vespers of the Indiction, that is the first of the ecclesiastical year, expressed it in this way: ‘Creator of the universe, setting times and seasons by Your sole authority…’ (Dismissal Hymn of the Indiction).

Like the cosmos, time also has a beginning and an end. It has an end because it had a beginning, and it had a beginning because it was also a creation of sole Creator ‘in time’. Just as the beginning of time coincided with the beginning of the cosmos, so the end of time will coincide with the end of the cosmos. On this subject, it is worthy of note that the book of the Revelation of Saint John makes mention of a new heaven and cosmos, when the old ones have passed away, an observation which demonstrates the transitory nature of this cosmos and time: ‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away’ (Rev. 21, 1).

In his homily on the Hexaemeron (the Six Days of Creation), Saint Basil the Great assures us that whatever has a beginning, time being no exception, will also have an end, because it’s certain that whatever’s created ‘in time’ will also come to an end ‘in time’. The end of time is the consequence of the beginning of time. This ending of the cosmos and of time is confirmed both in the Gospel according to Saint Mark: ‘heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words will not pass away’ (13, 31), as well as in the book of Psalms: ‘the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish but you remain’ (101, 26-27).

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