From the editor: September 5, 2013
The Good Year
of the Lord
The seasons turn, fall now approaches, vacations are over, students have returned to school, and today we received the annual shipment of our Calendar of the Christian Year from the printer in Michigan. (Unloading the cartons was a needed workout.)
Coincidentally, today is New Year's Day in the Jewish/Old Testament Calendar. (To my Jewish friends I say, L'shanah tovah! (A good year!))
The Old Testament roots of the Christian faith are reflected in the development of the Christian Calendar itself. This time of year marked the beginning of the Jewish Year (Rosh Hashana—literally "the head of the year"), and I believe that the Orthodox tradition of marking September 1 as the Beginning of the Church Year (called similarly the "crown of the year") is a reflection of this older tradition.
The more I ponder the commemorations and feast days of August and September, the more interesting things get. For instance, I see something this year I've not thought about before: the commemoration on Sept. 5 of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. The readings for this commemoration in the Orthodox Church emphasize his priestly service in the Temple and the angel's word about the forthcoming conception and birth of John.
I think Sept. 5 is really about John. For John is the hinge between Old and New Testament, with his father Zachariah a priest in a long line of priests. Perhaps this is why the calendar just before Sept. 5 is heavily flavored by the Old Testament. Consider these commemorations:
Sept. 1 Joshua Son of Nun.
Sept. 2 The priests Eleazar and Phinehas.
Sept. 4 The Prophet Moses.
So, right at the head of the Old Testament year, just before we are introduced to Zechariah, and then to John, we remember Joshua, who led the people into the Promised Land, Moses who gave them the Law, and the priests who carried on the divine services prescribed through Moses. Zechariah, carrying out the duties as an Old Testament priest, is told about John's coming, who will announce the New.
Another important consideration suggests an interplay between Old and New Testaments in August and September, namely two "feasts of Our Lord": The Transfiguration (Aug. 6) and Holy Cross (Sept. 14). In the first, Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, as it were, who discuss his pending "departure (exodus) which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem" (Luke 9:31), that is, on the Cross.
Now John's Gospel has no Transfiguration scene, but for him Jesus' glorification is on the Cross, which is seen as a triumph, which is the title of our second feast, on September 14, the Triumph of the Holy Cross. This date falls each year around the time of the Old Testament Day of Atonement.
One final piece to this thread: If you count 40 days, starting on August 6, you come to September 14. In ancient Jewish tradition, Moses came down the mountain, having to veil his face from the reflected divine glory (remind you of the Transfiguration?), with the tablets of the Law ... 40 days before ... the Day of Atonement.
Anyway, I think you can tell that I have enjoyed working on and writing about the Calendar now for many years. It is a reflection of the revelation of God to his people, and supremely the story of our salvation through Jesus Christ.
—James M. Kushiner