We’ve completed our annual cycle of remembering, celebrating, and entering into God’s plan for our salvation: the prophecies, His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the sacramental presence of His body, the Church.
From a human perspective, we can be tempted with frustration at times when moving from the end of something back to its beginning—doing it over again. Yet in the case of the liturgical year, we give thanks to God that we can once again joyfully celebrate His benevolence towards us. For in our finite state we need fresh starts, and this is one of them. From the culmination of Pascha, Ascension, Pentecost, and Transfiguration, we move back to the beginning events, the Nativity of the Mother of God and the Nativity of the Son of God Himself. We start this life-giving cycle over again, and the Holy Spirit, to the degree that we participate, further increases in us the sacramental realities that propel our salvation.
God, who created and loves us, knows our human frailty and our need for renewal. Marriages have their anniversaries, children their birthdays, the departed their memorials, and the saints their feasts. These are milestones of progress and sources of motivation for us, seasons of opportunity as we spiral ever upward towards heaven.
Notice that the last great feast of the closing year is the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, while the first great feast of the New Year is her Nativity. Christ is the beginning and end of all things Christian. Yet the Theotokos is the chosen passage, the gate through which the incarnate Son entered into the world and opened the way of salvation for all mankind. Therefore her birth and death, that is her entire life, encapsulate the earthly life of Christ, as her womb mysteriously circumscribed Him.
The Church celebrates this day by thanking God for the spiritual and material harvests of the past year, beseeching Him for fair weather, seasonable rains, and an abundant harvest of grace and physical well-being in the year to come. This is a good time for each of us to do the same. Take a moment during personal prayers, driving in the car alone, when the kids are napping, or at any other convenient time, and thank God for what the last year offered in both blessings and challenges.
Happy New Year!