A New Beginning

“… there was evening and there was morning, one day.” Gen. 1:5

In the Bible, the new day begins with the approach of evening, and the year begins with the approach of autumn. The Church year also parallels the life of Mary. As Theotokos, the one who bore God, she is the icon of the Church, the “Body of Christ”. (I Cor. 12:27) The year ended shortly after the celebration of her dormition on August 15 and begins right before her nativity on September 8.

This month’s greatest feast, the Elevation of the Cross, also echoes the theme of renewal. At the beginning of the year, we Christians make our official rededication to the crucified and risen Lord. The festal troparion, “O Lord, Save Thy People”, was the national anthem of the Christian empires. On this day we make our pledge of allegiance to our Lord Jesus Christ by the adoration of His holy feet nailed to the Life-giving Cross.

“For behold, through the Cross joy has come into all the world…”

Henri Nouwen writes: “Many people do not believe in the possibility of a truly joy-filled life. They have more or less accepted life as a prison and are grateful for every occasion that creates the illusion of the opposite: a cruise, a suspense novel, a movie, a sexual experience, or a few hours in a heightened state of consciousness. This is happiness in the house of fear, a happiness which is ‘made in this world’ and thus is neither lasting nor deeply satisfying.

The joy that Jesus offers His disciples is His own joy, which flows from His intimate communion with the One who sent Him. It is a joy that does not separate happy days from sad days, successful moments from moments of failure, experiences of honor from experiences of dishonor, passion from resurrection. This joy is a divine gift that does not leave us during times of illness, poverty, oppression or persecution. It is present even when the world laughs or tortures, robs or maims, fights or kills. It is truly ecstatic, always moving us away from the house of fear into the house of love, and always proclaiming that death no longer has the final say, though its noises remain loud and its devastation visible. The joy of Jesus lifts up life to be celebrated.”

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