St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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Thoughts at the end of the secular year

One of the tools that enables us all to become more Orthodox is the church year. Paying close attention to the church year and your active participation in its movement across the weeks and months will result in a sure and certain distancing from the secular swirl that surrounds us.
We begin on September 1st and end at August 31st. That may be the first thing to note: our calendar does not coincide with the civil calendar that begins on January 1st. This already sets us at odds with the secular agenda. We have more important things to attend to.
You can divide the year several ways to understand. One way is to observe its halves: a semester of the Lord and a semester of the Church. In the former we move from the Nativity of Mary through the Nativity of Jesus and on through Theophany to Lent, the Resurrection, and Pentecost. After Pentecost, we focus on the teachings and parables of Christ in the Gospel readings until we repeat the cycle again. If you are paying attention this movement will assist you to live, as First Peter says, “in but not of the world.”
Another way we divide the year is by fasting and feasting times. Not for nothing do we have two long periods of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving: one prior to Christmas and one prior to Pascha. In addition, there are the two short fasts, the Apostles’ Fast and the Dormition Fast. These four fasts more or less coincide with the natural seasons of the year. These are meant to prepare us mentally and physically and spiritually for the feasts to come. Thus, following each of the two festivals, we have weeks of no fasting.
Lastly, take a look at the saints you admire over the course of a year, especially your own patron. Look for ones with whose stories you can bond. They will offer insight, courage and new ways of thinking about the faith.
Never thought of the church year as a subversive or counter-cultural tool before? Give it a try this year.

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