St John Chrysostom: A Homily for the New Year (On the Kalends of January)

[Translated by Seumas Macdonald], an excerpt…

[…]  The whole year will be fortunate for you, not if you are drunk on the new-moon [New Year’ Day], but if both on the new-moon [January 1st], and each day, you do those things approved by God. For days come wicked and good, not from their own nature; for a day differs nothing from another day, but from our zeal and sluggishness. If you perform righteousness, then the day becomes good to you; if you perform sin, then it will be evil and full of retribution. If you contemplate these things, and are so disposed, you will consider the whole year favorable, performing prayers and charity every day; but if you are careless of virtue for yourself, and you entrust the contentment of your soul to beginnings of months and numbers of days, you will be desolate of everything good unto yourself. […]

  Strong drink does not produce delight, but spiritual prayer; not wine, but a learned word. Wine effects a storm, but the Word [of God] effects calm; the former transports in an uproar, the latter expels disturbance; the former darkens the understanding, the latter lightens the darkened; the former imports despondencies that are non-existent, the latter drives away those there were [1]. For nothing is so accustomed to produce contentment and delight, as the teachings of [our] philosophy [wisdom]: [which is] to despise present affairs, to yearn for the things to come, to consider nothing of human affairs to be secure, and if you behold some rich man not to be bitten with envy, and if you fall into poverty not to be downcast by that poverty. Thus you are always able to celebrate festivals.

  For the Christian ought to hold feasts not for months, nor new moons, nor Lord’s days, but continually through life to conduct a feast befitting him. What is the feast that befits him? Let us listen to Paul speaking, “Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not in the old leaven, nor by leaven of evil and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” [1 Corinthians 5,8].

  If then you have a clean conscience, you hold a feast continually, nourished with good hopes, and reveling in the delight of the good things to come; then just as if you conducted yourself lacking boldness, and you were liable from many sins, and if there be ten thousand feasts and holy-days, you would be in no better state than those grieving. For what is the benefit to me of bright days, if my soul is darkened in its conscience? If then one wishes to gain some benefit from the new moon, do this. When you see the year ending, thank the Lord, because he had led you into this cycle of years. Stab the heart [‘prick the heart’] reckon up the time of your life, say to oneself: “The days run and pass by, the years fill-up, we have progressed much of the way; What good is there for us to do? Will we not depart from here, empty and deserted of all righteousness, the judgment at the doors, the rest of life leads us to our old age.”

  These things, [from the new moon], contemplate on New Year’s Day, these from the circuit of the years, recollect. Let us reckon the future day, no longer something spoken to us that, which was said to the Jews by the prophet, “Their days slipped away in vanity, and their years with haste” [Psalm 77:33 LXX]. This is the feast which I mentioned, the continual one, and the one not delayed by the passage of years, not limited by days, both the rich and the poor will be able to celebrate in the same manner: For here there is no want of wealth, nor provision, but only of virtue. Do you not have wealth? But you have the fear of God, a treasure more fruitful than all wealth, not consumed, not changed, not spent-up. Look to heaven, and to the heaven of heavens, the earth, the sea, the air, the kinds of the animals, the manifold plants, the whole nature of human-beings; consider the angels, archangels, the powers above; recall that these are all creations of your Master. It is thus not poverty to be the slave of the providential Master, if you have him as your propitious Lord. The observation of days is not of Christian philosophy [teaching, wisdom, see notes], but of Hellenic error.

  Into the city above you are enrolled [i.e. as a citizen] into the polity [2] there you are reckoned, you will mingle with the angels; where light does not give way to darkness, nor day fulfilled to night, but is always day, always light. To these therefore let us look continually. “For seek”, he says, “the things above, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand.” [Col 3:1] You have nothing in common with the earth, where the courses of the sun are, and circuits, and days; but if you live rightly, the night will be day for you; just as then for those living in licentiousness and drunkenness and intemperance, their day is turned into the darkness of night, not with the sun’s extinction, but the darkening of their mind by inebriation.

Russians celebrate the New Year on Red Square in Moscow, with the Kremlin in the background, right, and St. Basil's cathedral in background left, Russia, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012. Tens of thousands of peo

  To be passionately excited towards these days, and to receive greater pleasure in them, and to kindle lights in the forum, and to weave wreaths, is of childish folly. But you have been freed from this weakness, and come into adulthood, and been enrolled in the polity of the heavens. Do not therefore kindle sensate fire in the forum, but kindle spiritual light in your mind. “For let”, he said, “your light shine before men, so they may see your good works, and they will glorify our Father in the heavens.” [Mt 5:16; Chrysostom has ‘our Father’ for ‘your Father’].

 This light brings you much recompense. Do not crown the door of the house, but display such a way of life so that you will receive the crown of righteousness on your head from the hand of Christ. Let nothing be done rashly, nor simply; thus Paul enjoins that all things be done for the glory of God. “For whether you eat,” he said, “or drink, or do whatever, do all for the glory of God” [1 Cor. 10:31. This verse provides the theme for the rest of the sermon].

  And what is it, he says, to eat and drink for God’s glory? Call the poor man, make Christ a participant of the table, and you eat and drink for God’s glory. But not this alone does he enjoin us to do for God’s glory, but all the rest as well, as to go into the forum, and to remain at home; let these both be done for God’s sake [δι τν Θεν and so throughout]. And how are these both to be done for God’s sake? Whenever you come into church, whenever you partake of prayer, whenever of spiritual teaching, the advance has occurred for God’s glory. Again, it is to remain at home for God’s sake. And how is this? [i.e. How will one glorify God in this action of staying at home?]

  Whenever you hear disturbances, disorderly and diabolical processions, the forum filled with wicked and undisciplined men, remain at home, free from this disorder, and you remain for God’s glory. Just as spending time at home and going-out is able to be done for God’s sake, thus also of praise and censure. And what is it to praise something for God’s glory, he says, and to accuse? You sit frequently in workplaces, you see evil and wicked men passing by, raising the eyebrows [a sign of haughtiness and importance], puffed up, trailing many parasites and flatterers, wearing expensive clothes, surrounded with some mystique, seizing all things, avaricious. If you hear someone saying, “Is he not enviable, is he not blessed?” Rebuke [the word], accuse it, [have] silence, pity, and weep; this is what it means to censure for God’s sake.

  Censure is teaching of philosophy to those meeting together and is so strong of virtue [3], so as to no longer long [more literally, ‘gape’.] for the things of everyday life. Say to the one saying these things: “Why is this man blessed? Because he has a marvelous horse and a golden bridle, and possesses many servants, and wears bright clothing, and bursts [4] each day in drunkenness and luxury?” But for this reason he would be wretched and cursed, and worthy of a thousand tears. I see then that you are able to praise nothing of him, but all things external to him, the horse, the bridle, the clothing, of which nothing is his. What then, tell me, is more pitiable than this, when his horse, and the horse’s bridle, and the beauty of his clothes, and the bodily vigor of his servants are marveled, but he passes by upraised? Who then could be poorer than this man, having nothing good of his own, nor anything that he is able to carry away from here, but is adorned entirely by external things? For adornment and riches are properly our own, not servants and clothing and horses, but virtue of soul, and wealth of good deeds, and confidence towards God.

  Again, you see another man, a pauper, rejected, despised and passing his life in poverty and virtue, considered unhappy by his companions: commend this man, and the praise of this man as he passes by is exhortation and counsel of a useful and good way of life [politeia]. If they say, “He is wretched and miserable,” say that this one is the most blessed of all, having God as his friend, passing life in virtue, possessing a wealth never failing, having a pure conscience. For what harm is there to him from the lack of possessions, when he is going to inherit heaven and the good things in heaven? And if you yourself philosophize in this manner, and instruct others, you will receive a great reward from both censure and from praises, doing both for God’s glory. And that I do not allure you vainly saying these things, but that a certain great recompense exists with the God of all things for those whose intellect is thus disposed, and that the thing has been considered a certain virtue, [that is] the resolving to do such things, hear what the prophet says concerning those so living, and how he places things in an order of perfections, the despising of those doing wickedness, and the glorifying of those fearing God.

  For after recounting the other virtue of the one who will be honored by God, also he says, of what sort one must be to dwell in the holy tabernacle, that is blameless, and performing righteousness, and wicked-less, and this he adds: For saying, “Who did not deceive with his tongue, and did no harm to his neighbor” [Ps 15:3 (Ps 14:3 LXX)] he adds, “The one doing evil is set at naught before him, but those fearing the Lord he glorifies” [Ps 15:4 (Ps 14:4 LXX)] showing that this is one of those perfections, that is to despise the wicked, and to praise and bless the good. And again elsewhere this same thing he makes plain, saying, “Your friends were exceedingly honorable to me, God, their beginnings [poss. authorities] became very strong.”[5] Whom God praises, do not censure: he praises the one living in righteousness, even if he be poor; whom God turns away, do not praise: he turns away the one living in wickedness, even if he be surrounded by much wealth. But if you praise, and if you censure, do both as God wishes. For there is even accusing unto the glory of God. How? Frequently we are vexed with our servants. How then is there accusing for God’s sake? If you see someone drunk, or stealing, whether servant, or friend, or some other of those related to you, whether running into the theatre, or having no concern for their soul, or swearing [i.e. swearing oaths], or perjuring [i.e. to swear falsely] or lying: be angry [6], punish, turn them back, correct; and you did all these things for God’s sake. And if you see someone sinning against you, and omitting something of their service toward you, pardon them, and you are forgiven for God’s sake. But now many do the opposite, both to their friends, and to their servants. For when they sin against them, they become bitter and unforgiving judges; but when they insult God, and ruin their own souls, they produce no rationale. Again, is it necessary to make friends? Make them, for God’s sake. Is it necessary to make enemies? Make them, for God’s sake. And by what means does one make friends and enemies for God’s sake? If we do not attract those friends, whence money is taken, whence sharing of a table, whence obtaining of human patronage, but pursue and make those friends, those able always to order our soul, counsel necessities, rebuke sinners, expose trespassers, restore those fallen, and aiding by counsel and prayers to lead to God. Again, it is permitted to make enemies for God’s sake. If you see someone undisciplined, abominable, full of wickedness, replete with unclean teachings, tripping you up and harming you, stand apart and turn away, just as also Christ commanded, saying, “If your right eye trips you up, pluck it out and cast it from you” [Mt 5:29] commanding those friends, those being desirable in the rank of eyes [7], and necessary in the things of everyday life, to cut off, and to cast out, if they harm you with regard to the salvation of the soul. If you share in their meetings, and you prolong your speech, do even this for God’s sake, and if you keep silent, keep silent for God’s sake.

  And what is it to participate in the meeting for God’s sake? If you are seated with someone, converse nothing concerning daily affairs, nor of simple things even vainly and nothing of those related to you, but concerning our philosophy, concerning Hell, concerning the Kingdom of the Heavens, but not superfluities and unprofitable things, such as, “Who entered authority? [8] Who lost power? For what reason was so-and-so injured [possibly with a technical or financial sense: fined, punished]? Whence did so-and-so profit and become better off? What did so-and-so dying leave behind to such-and-such? How did so-and-so miss out, expecting to be listed among the foremost of the heirs?” And many other such things. Let us not then discuss such things, nor bear others discussing [them]; but let us consider what-doing or what-saying is to please God. Again, it is to keep silent for God’s sake, being maltreated, abused, suffering a thousand evils, if you bear them nobly, and emit no blasphemous word against the one doing these things to you. Not to praise and to censure alone, nor to remain indoors and to go out, not to utter and to keep silent, but also to weep and mourn, and to enjoy and delight is to God’s glory.

  For when you see either a brother sinning, or yourself falling into a transgression, [if] then you groan and mourn [these two verbs continue the protasis of the conditional], then you gain from the grief a salvation without regret, just as Paul says, “For grief according to God produces a salvation without regret” [2 Cor. 7:10]. If you see another person being highly esteemed, then do not disparage him, but as for one’s own goods give thanks to God, to the one making your brother illustrious, and you receive a great reward from this joy.

  What then, tell me, is more pitiable than the envious, when it is permitted both to rejoice and to profit through joy, and they prefer rather to grieve upon the advantages of others, and with the grief to yet also attract a punishment from God, an unendurable retribution. And what need is there to speak of praise, and of blame, and of pain, and of joy, when indeed even from the least of these things and from the meanest [‘mean’ in the sense of cheap, frugal, vulgar] events the greatest things are to be profited, if we do them for God’s sake?

[…]

  “Whether you eat, whether you drink, whether you do some other thing, do all for the glory of God” [1 Cor. 10:31]. If we pray, if we fast, if we accuse, if we pardon, if we praise, if we censure, if we enter, if we exit, if we sell, if we buy, if we are silent, if we converse, if we do any thing else whatsoever, let us do all for the glory of God, and if something be not for the glory of God, neither let it be done, nor be spoken by us; but in place of a great staff, in place of arms and safeguard, in place of unspeakable treasures, wherever we might be, let us carry around this word with us, having inscribed it upon our understanding, so that doing and speaking and trafficking all things for the glory of God, we shall obtain the glory that is from him both in this world and after  the journey here [i.e. after this life]. “For those that glorified me”, he says, “I will glorify” [1 Sam 2:30; (1 Reg. 2.30 LXX)]. Not therefore with words, but also through deeds let us glorify him continually with Christ our God, because all glory befits him, honor and worship, now and always unto the ages of ages. Amen.

For the entire sermon see Source. 

Notes:

Philosophy, both here and throughout Chrysostom, refers to Christianity as both a distinct set of beliefs, and a set of practices or way of life. It highlights the rivalry between the Christian philosophy, and the philosophical schools of the Hellenism.

[1] i.e. the former brings new dependencies that previously were not there, but the latter drives away those that were present beforehand.

[2] politeia, like philosophy, is a key concept-work for Chrysostom. It refers variously to the body of Christians both on earth and in heaven, their way of life as citizens, and their ordered existence in the church. It is also a rival politeia to that of Plato’s Republic and the like.

[3] This first half of the sentence is as confusing in the Greek as in the English.

[4] Migne’s Latin has solvitur which we might render ‘dissolves’, thus picking up the idea of moral dissolution in a wanton life. The Greek διαῤῥήγνυται is difficult to construe.

[5] Ps 138:17 LXX. Ps 139:17 MT differs radically from this reading.

[6] ἀγᾰνακτέω, the same verb used for ‘vexed’ above.

[7] Chrysostom’s meaning seems to be ‘those friends whom we hold as dear as our own eyes’, which Migne’s Latin also implies.

[8] N elected officials would enter office on the Kalends, which presumably explains the kind of political conversation Chrysostom has in view.

Father George Calciu – On New Year’ Eve Celebration

  This end of the year – the New Year’ Eve that the world celebrates – not been established or sanctified by the church, cannot be considered sacred, but only a human invention. Do we (Christians) have to celebrate it? Are we to attend the fireworks, the songs and all sorts of scandals, parties? … No.
We praise our Lord in the church. For it is in the church we’re awaiting “the end”. If God would have ordained the end of times tonight, He wouldn’t made His Son’ Nativity at Christmas!
What is the relation between a sacred event and the first of January? Absolutely no connection. And why some say that the end (of the world) is when the world decides – as a new millennium begins – and not when Christ will come? Or at least at the Annunciation!
All these are for the devil’ deceit. The overcrowding of people, the delirium seizing all, the craziness, the fireworks, the drinks, the champagne flowing … I was watching last night what happened in Paris. Someone said that in Rome, where the congregation of the Pope gathered (and I could not understand why he gave blessing to the world and the city on January 1st 2000 when there is no sacred event to celebrate)… we do not know how many millions of bottles of champagne flowed…. And someone else wound announce: more champagne in Paris! Then, more beer in Germany! So, this is the measure of “sanctity” for the New Year!  […]

To read the entire sermon see Here.

A wish for the New Year: towards eternity…

(Fragment of a Homily delivered by Metropolitan Augustine of Florina in the Church of St. Panteleimon, Florida, 31.12.1974, during the New Year’ Eve services)

ανω σχ. π. Α

 […] Towards the eternity we step, my brothers. And now, another year had passed. We welcome a new year. What will it bring us? We do not know.

  As for us been dull, we do not know if we will live tomorrow. Unceasingly one has to wait his departure, especially us elders, reaching the sunset of life. But also the young. We do not know “What the present moment will offer “.  And I wonder next year, in a day like this, how many of us will still be here living? And what events await our people in the New Year? What will it happen in the Balkans, the Mediterranean and the world? … Are you imagining dreams and envision an endless life? But eternity is approaching my dear; the biggest moment is waiting to rise.

  What should I wish you, my dear? Wealth, glory, honors, delights, pleasures? … How meaningless is everything. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1, 2). Only one thing remains: your belief in Christ. There is no other name that can give us joy and hope during this coming year, Whom us children praise and exalt into the ages of ages. Amen!