Happy New Year, Everyone!

On this day, September 1, we observe the Beginning of the Indiction, which is also the Ecclesiastical New Year. The icon of the feast, depicted below, shows Our Lord at the synagogue of Nazareth reading what the Prophet Isaiah had long before said about him, and announcing the “acceptable year of the Lord”an event which, according to Tradition, took place on this Day of Grace.

“The Roman Emperors, for the maintenance of their troops, decreed through a constitution a certain general tribute on their subjects by every eparchy, the payment of which took place yearly. The same constitution was repeated after an interval of fifteen years, for the soldiers of Old Rome had the obligation to serve in the army for fifteen years. After the completion of these they renewed the constitution again, with some modification due to the probable change of circumstances in the interval, and ordered afresh another tribute, to be paid also in succession throughout the fifteen year period. At the end of this period a third, and so forth. The imperial constitution, through which this tribute was ordered a little before the winter, was named Indictio, that is ‘decree,’ or ‘proclamation’ concerning the tribute. Writing it ‘Indiction’ the Kings of Constantinople preserved the word, while the patriarchs in later years employed the word epinemesis, which means ‘distribution.’ Indictions were introduced, according to the commoner view, under Augustus Caesar three years before Christ, and they produce as proof a certain papal seal (Bulla), that is a papal constitution, issued in the year 781 AD, which is dated as follows: anno IV, Indictionis LIII, that is ‘in year 4 of the 53rd Indiction,’ from which one can conclude the year mentioned. By multiplying the 52 full Indictions and adding the 4 years of the 53rd one arrives at the number 784, that is 581 years from Christ and 3 more.

“There are three types of Indiction. The first is that introduced in the West, which is called ‘imperial,’ ‘Caesarian,’ or ‘Constantinian,’ and it begins on the 24th of September. The second is called ‘papal’ and begins on the 1st of January. The third is that of Constantinople, which the Patriarchs of that city adopted after the fall of the Eastern Empire and which they write in their own hand on constitutions issued by them, without numbering the succession of Indictions or of the periods of 15 years. It begins, with a certain ceremony, from the 1st of September. And this is the ‘Beginning of the Indiction,’ and the reason for its cycle of fifteen years.

“But since, after the gathering of the crops into barns, there takes place in a certain manner the completion of the whole year, and we begin again from this time and onwards to sow seed anew into the earth for the sake of the provision of new produce in the future, for this reason September is reckoned to be the beginning of the new year. The Church, as she celebrates today, asks of God ‘favourable weather,’ seasonable rains, ‘abundance of the earth,’ etc. That the ancient Synagogue of the Jews also celebrated on this day the feast of Trumpets, offering to God hymns of thanksgiving, Holy Scripture is witness (cfr. Leviticus 23:24-25; Numbers 29:1-2). There is a third reason for the present feast: the remembrance of the entry of Jesus into the synagogue of the Jews at Nazareth, when he was given the book of the Prophet Isaiah to read, and opening it he found the passage where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, therefore he has anointed me,’ etc. (Luke 4:16-18). So much for the present feast and the Indiction.” (From the ῾Ωρολόγιον τò μέγα; translation by Archimandrite Ephrem Lash.)

8 responses to “Happy New Year, Everyone!

  1. Aaron> As Peter has already confirmed, we are now in the year 7517. I think it's all terribly exciting!

    Peter> Listening to this Sacred Harp recording verily warmed the cockles of my heart. What a way to start the New Year! ;-)

    For the benefit of those who can't make out the words of the recording Peter linked above, here there are:

    Plenary

    Tune: A. C. Clark, 1839
    Words: Isaac Watts, 1709
    Meter: Common Meter (8,6,8,6)

    Hark! from the tombs of doleful sound,
    Mine ears, attend the cry,
    Ye living men, come view the ground,
    Where you must shortly lie.

    "Princes, this clay must be your bed,
    In spite of all your tow’rs;
    The tall, the wise, the rev’rend head,
    Must lie as low as ours."

    Great God! Is this our certain doom?
    And are we still secure?
    Still walking downward to the tomb,
    And yet prepared no more!

    And for those curious about Peter's associations, I note that this is also a Masonic funeral dirge. ;-)

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  2. I make a point of singing Plenary, with gusto, on September 14, November 10, January 1, and January 14, just to cover all the potential new years.

    (The second one being the new year on my own private calendar, dating from my birth.)

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  3. Do you sing it twice on January 1–you know, one for the Gregorian New Year, and the other for the New Year in the Anno Lucis? ;-)

    Seriously, though, I think that’s very lovely. I love the Sacred Harp tradition.

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  4. I sing it until my relatives start throwing stuff at me to make me stop. (:

    It was actually Sacred Harp, in part, that made me want to be Orthodox. I was thinking about it, and about how you can’t just buy a book and start singing from it and do it in the proper style, but rather you need to join a group and learn from the other people how it’s done. Suddenly, I realized how this applied to my ecclesiastical dilemmas of that time.

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  5. Peter, that’s fascinating! I too was decisively influenced by the realization of our need for community, but not in such a personal, “existential” way.

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