In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Before we pray, I should like to introduce our prayers so that when we
pray, we do it more effectively, with one mind and with one heart.
Year after year I have spoken of the New Year that was coming, in
terms of a plain covered with snow, unspoiled, pure, and called our
attention to the fact that we must tread responsibly on this expanse
of whiteness still unspoiled, because according to the way in which we
tread it, there will be a road cutting through the plain following the
will of God, or wandering steps that will only soil the whiteness of
the snow. But a thing that we cannot, must not forget, this year
perhaps more than on many previous occasions, is that, surrounding,
covering this whiteness and this unknown as with a dome, there is
darkness, a darkness with few or many stars, but a darkness, dense,
opaque, dangerous and frightening. We come out of a year when darkness
has been perceived by all of us, when violence and cruelty are still
How shall we meet it? It would be naive, and it would be very
unchristian, to ask God to shield us against it, to make of the Church
a haven of peace while around us there is no peace. There is strife,
there is tension, there is discouragement, there are fears, there is
violence, there is murder. We cannot ask for peace for ourselves if
this peace does not extend beyond the Church, does not come as rays of
light to dispel the darkness. One Western spiritual writer has said
that the Christian is one to whom God has committed responsibility for
all other men, and this responsibility we must be prepared to
discharge. In a few moments we will entreat for both the unknown and
the darkness, the greatest blessing which is pronounced in our
liturgical services, 'Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost' - blessed in the kingship of God.
These words are spoken rarely: at the beginning of services, at the
outset of the Liturgy, as a blessing upon the New Year, and at moments
when eternity and time unite, when with the eyes of faith we can see
eternity intertwined with time, and conquering. The Christian is one
who must be capable of seeing history as God sees it, as a mystery of
salvation but also as a tragedy of human fallenness and sin. And with
regard to both we must take our stand. Christ says in the Gospel,
"When you will hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled".
Lift up your heads, there is no space in the heart and in the life of
the Christian for cowardice, faintheartedness and fear, which are all
born of selfishness, concern for self, even if it extends to those
whom we love. God is the Lord of history, but we must be co-workers
with God, and we are sent by Him into this world of His, in order to
make the discordant city of men into the harmony which will be called
the city of God.
And we must remember the words of the Apostle who says, whoever will
wish to work for the Lord will be led into trial; and the words of
another Apostle who tells us not to be afraid of trial by fire. In the
present world we must be prepared, ready for trials and ready to
stand, perhaps with fear in our heart for lack of faith, but unshaken
in the service of God and the service of men.
And when we look back at the past year the words of the litany hit us
and accuse us. We ask God to forgive us all that we have done or left
undone in the past year. We claim to be Orthodox. To be Orthodox does
not mean only to confess the Gospel in its integrity and proclaim it
in its purity, but it consists, even more than this, in living
according to the Gospel; and we know that Christ comes to no
compromise with anything but the greatness of man and the message of
love and worship. We can indeed repent because who, looking at us,
would say as people said about the early Christians, 'See how they
love one another!' Who would say, looking at us, that we are in
possession of an understanding of life, of a love which makes us
beyond compare, which causes everyone to wonder: Where does it come
from? Who gave it to them? How can they stand the test of trial? And
if we want this year to be worthy of God, of our Christian calling, of
the holy name of Orthodoxy, we must singly and as a body become to
all, to each person who may need us, a vision of what man can be and
what a community of men can be under God.
Let us pray for forgiveness, we who are so far below our calling, let
us pray for fortitude, for courage, for determination to discount
ourselves, to take up our cross, to follow in the footsteps of Christ
whithersoever He will call us.
At the beginning of the war King George VI spoke words which can be
repeated from year to year. In his message to the Nation he read a
quotation: "I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown, and he
replied: "Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the hand of
God; that shall be better to you than light and safer than a known
This is what we are called to do, and perhaps we should make today a
resolution, determined to be faithful to our calling and begin the New
Year with courage. Amen.
* All texts are copyright: Estate of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Library
Happy New Year!