“It is part of the goodness of God, that He, who has no beginning and no ending, the Eternal Trinity, should take such care to give us a year which begins and ends, and then begins all over again. In our human and finite state we need fresh starts, and this is one of them…” ~ Fr. Michael Harper, “The Orthodox New Year”
September 1 is rapidly approaching, and a new Church year will begin. The Ecclesiastical New Year is an important time for Orthodox Christians. Unfortunately, it is often nearly overlooked. This year let us prepare to celebrate the Ecclesiastical New Year, remembering its importance, and solemnly celebrating it as the new beginning for our Church year.
Here are a few resources to help us think about the Ecclesiastical New Year, some ideas of how to teach our Sunday Church School children about it, and a few related crafts :
Resources for background information:
- Read about the history of the Ecclesiastical New Year’s celebration athttp://www.goarch.org/chapel/saints_view?contentid=188.
- Read more of Fr. Michael Harper’s article (quoted above), “The Orthodox New Year,” athttp://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/fasts_feasts/harper_new_year.htm.
- Study this meditation on the Ecclesiastical New Yearhttp://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/indiction.htm, and use it as a base for a lesson on the new Church year. (Ideas for a lesson based on this meditation include: gratitude for bounty; blessings; God’s goodness; our dependence on God; Ps. 65 (64 in the Greek Septuagint); etc. So, for example, younger classes could have a lesson about blessings: what they are, and how God loves to grant them, and just what it is that we are asking God to do for our year. Or, older children could study Ps. 65 and/or discuss what God would like to do in our lives in the year ahead, etc.)
- As a class, create a “crown of the year” poster. At the top, write “Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness, O Lord.” Have students list, draw, or otherwise illustrate (maybe with pictures cut from magazines?) different aspects of God’s goodness with which you would like Him to bless the year ahead. (For example: kindness, illustrated by someone helping someone else; forgiveness, illustrated by a person receiving absolution after confession; love, illustrated by family members hugging; etc.) Place the poster in your classroom where you can weekly be reminded of what you have asked of the Lord from the beginning of this new year. At the end of the year, revisit the poster and list ways in which He indeed blessed your year with His goodness.
- 1. Have your students make a blessing jar similar to this one:http://www.icanteachmychild.com/blessing-jar/. In this jar, they will place notes recounting the blessings God grants them throughout the year. Encourage them to reopen the jars and revisit those blessings at the end of the year.
- 2. Help the students to each (or collectively if you prefer to keep one in your classroom) make time capsules as suggested here:http://www.theorthodoxchildrenspress.com/diy-kids/tocp-diy-family-church-year-time-capsule/
The Ecclesiastical New Year offers us an opportunity to be mindful of God’s presence in our lives. As we bring in the new Church year, let us be sure that this celebration is a subdued time of reflection, prayer, and committing our year to God. Let us think about the new year, ask God to bless it, and look for His presence in our lives throughout the year ahead.
O Word of the Father from before the ages, Who, being in the form of God, broughtest creation into being out of nothing; Thou Who hast put the times and seasons in Thine own power: Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness; give peace unto Thy churches, victory unto Thy faithful hierarchs, fruitfulness unto the earth, and Great Mercy unto us. –Orthros of the Feast, Tone 3