The New Year

The first of September is the New Year according to the calendar of the “Age of the World” (sometimes called the “Age of Creation according to the Romans” by the Byzantines).  The tradition behind September 1st as the New Year arises from the belief that the creation of the world occurred on that date in the year 5509 BC.  All the Imperial indictions of the Eastern Roman Empire and the liturgical year of the Orthodox Church were derived from this date.  Of course the civil use of this calendar died out gradually after the fall of Constantinople, lasting longest in the Russian Empire where it was in civil and ecclesiastical use until 1700.  Today marks the beginning of the year 7519 according to this calendar.

In the Orthodox Churches and the Byzantine Catholic Churches, the date of September 1st is retained as the beginning of the Liturgical year; it seems rather appropriate as we have just celebrated the last great feast of the Incarnation (the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin) and are about to celebrate her birthday, which is really the first act in the drama.  At any rate, it is a date on which we can especially recall the creation.  The short passage below is by Fr. George Florovsky:

The world exists.  But it began to exist.  And that means: the world could have not existed.  There is no necessity whatsoever for the existence of the world.  Creaturely existence is not self-sufficient and is not independent.  Creation by its very existence witnesses to and proclaims its creaturehood, it proclaims that it has been produced.  But unexpectedly it is precisely in its creaturehood and createdness that the stability and substantiality of the world is rooted.

God creates in perfect freedom.  This proposition is fromed with remarkable precision by the ‘subtle doctor’ of the western Middle Ages, Duns Scotus: “The creation of things is executed by God not out of any necessity, whether of essence or of knowledge or of will, but out of sheer freedom which is not moved – much less constrained – by anything external.”  In creation God is determined only himself.  God creates solely out of his goodness.  The idea of the world has its basis not in the essence but in the will of God.  The might and freedom of God must be defined not only as the power to create and to produce but also as the absolute freedom not to create.  God creates out of the absolute superabundance of his mercy and love.

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