Happy (Church) New Year!
It seems odd saying "Happy New Year" in September, but that is when the Church marks Her annual beginning. September 1st. is, for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the first day of a New Year. A pious tradition of the Church holds that Jesus of Nazareth began preaching the good news of His mission on September 1st.
Tradition also holds that it was during the month of September that the Hebrews entered the Promised Land. Also, the custom of beginning a new year with autumn in Biblical and Mediterranean lands developed because the summer harvest was completed, the crops were stored, and it was a time when people began preparing for a new agricultural cycle. It was an appropriate time for a new beginning. This is evident in the services for the New Year as the Church beseeches God for fair weather, seasonable rains, and an abundance of the fruits of the earth.
The Church Calendar is loaded with important events – especially the 12 Great Feasts, the 4 Fasts, and PASCHA (Easter). Also, each day of the Church Year is set aside to honor Saints, many of whom died on that particular date. Similar to our personal calendars where we mark the earthly birthdays of family and friends, the Church remembers the Saints on their "heavenly birthday" - the day they passed from this life to Paradise.
Liturgically, the Church Year begins and ends with the Mother of God. The first Great Feast of the Year, September 8th, honors her birth. The last Great Feast of the Year, August 15th, remembers her falling asleep. Between these Two Great Feasts, the Church marks 10 other major feasts and PASCHA:
The Nativity of the Theotokos, September 8
Elevation of the Holy Cross, September 14
Entry of the Theotokos in the Temple, November 21
Nativity of Christ, December 25
Baptism of Christ (Theophany), January 6
Meeting of Christ in the Temple, February 2
The Annunciation of the Theotokos, March 25
The Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), followed by Passion Week
The Ascension of Our Lord
The Transfiguration of our Lord, August 6
The Falling Asleep of the Theotokos (Dormition), August 15
The 4 Fasts recognized during the Church Year are:
Philip's Fast, which begins on the Feast of St. Philip, November 15, and lasts for 40 days
The Great Fast (Lent) which begins on Monday after Cheesefare and lasts for 40 days, which is a day of strict fasting.
The Apostles' Fast, which begins on the Monday after the Sunday of All Saints and ends on the eve of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29)
The Dormition Fast that begins on August 1 and ends on the eve of the Dormition.
The wall calendars that most parishes make available each Fall include many of the daily Saints and readings for the year. Also, most people have their own patron Saint – or "name day" to remember, as well as other favorite and family Saints' days.
We encourage you to follow the Liturgical year and participate in the feasts and fasts. Experience a richer spiritual life.