On New Year’s Eve many meditate on the meaning of this feast and on why so many people love it. There are also some dear brothers who wonder why Orthodox Christians should attach any special significance to the New Year.
Since my ordination I begin every New Year with the words: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages.” This moment is always one of the most beautiful I ever experience.
Why? Because it is beautiful to glorify the Kingdom of the Holy Trinity at the first moment of the year. This is the main reason why this feast is so wonderful and beautiful.
“Feast?” – some might ask. Yes, precisely a feast. We have this feast in our Menaion, where it is called the “Beginning of the New Year.” It is commemorated, according to the Typikon, with a Great Doxology. Many might say: “But that is the beginning of the ecclesiastical New Year, on September 1.” But the point is that the word “ecclesiastical” is not found anywhere in reference to this service: not in the Typikon, not in the Menaion, not in any prayer – absolutely nowhere. I think the word “ecclesiastical” came into today’s calendars due to a misunderstanding. The New Year was celebrated on September 1 because that was the beginning of the New Year in Byzantium – the beginning of a civil year. The Church assigned a special festal service for the beginning of just this civil, secular New Year. Why? The answer to this question can be found in the hymns from the New Year’s service. The Church asks God to bless the New Year, to make it a year of God’s mercy, a year of salvation. In other words, the Church asks to transfigure physical, biological, political time into a mystical one – time that unites us with eternity. God’s blessing is not asked upon “an ecclesiastical New Year” – this we will not find in the festal service. Precisely the normal time of our life is in need of God’s blessing, in order to make it the time of our salvation. Just as we bless normal water and just as we baptize a normal body, which then cease to be normal and become holy, so in the same way do we not take a special “ecclesiastical year,” but the very normal year of our life in order to make time holy.
It is true that people today experience the New Year more intensively. This might be explained by the fact that time for a modern person is dramatic and tragic as if was never before. Never before has man’s life been so meaningless as today. In all previous epochs, man’s life was somehow correlated with eternity. The more eternity there was in daily life, the less meaning the passing of time had. Today eternity has disappeared from man’s life, and only time is left. It is probably for this reason that we celebrate the New Year so festively. We are trying to hide from the horror of approaching a meaningless end.
In such a situation the Church should all the more proclaim that there is more than time, and that our life is not limited by time. That is why it is so important, and also is so beautiful, to begin the New Year with the glorification and blessing of the eternal Kingdom of the Holy Trinity.