The civil New Year falls on the days before the Nativity of Christ, that great and joyful holiday and miracle when God became incarnate in Man, came to earth in order to exalt fallen humanity and reconcile it with the Creator by His sacrifice and humility. Our era counts exactly from the Nativity of Christ.
Looking back on the past year, we usually try to take stock of the results of that year and make plans for the future. Probably, we have not been able to accomplish many things because of our laziness, inertia, neglect and forgetfulness. Let us remember our sins and mistakes and realize them. But still, I hope that the past year gave us the opportunity to multiply our life experience, taught us to love God more than people and to glorify the Creator with prayer and good deeds, to do His will.
One wise man was asked: what is the most important time in life, what is the most important and significant person in life and what is the most necessary deed? And the wise man answered. The most important time is the one in which you are living now, for the past time has already passed and it is no longer here, the future time has not come and it doesn’t exist yet, and, therefore, the present moment is the most important time in life. The most significant person is the one who is right next to you and to whom you can do something good. And the most necessary deed is to do something good for a person, and therefore for God.
We should not be only consumers of God’s grace, should not only expect manifestations of His mercy, but should also give love and joy to those around us, “hasten to do good”, for we are called to be co-creators of His works. So let us enter this new year with the hope for a better future, let us be more sensitive to those close and distant, let us try to do our best to grant to them our affection, attention, care and love. Let us enter a new, so far unknown, time with gratitude to God for the fact that He endures and forgives our sins, that He gives us strength, peace, mercy and the grace of the Holy Spirit, that He loves us, those of little faith, so much, leading us through life by the hand, like children, into the Kingdom of Heaven. He gave us freedom – an invaluable gift to become new people in purity, simplicity, meekness and humility. Let us endure troubles and temptations with patience – the Creator allows them for our instruction and testing, let us not pay much attention to our everyday failures, let us believe that on our way to God He strengthens us in our weakness. Let us learn meekness and long-suffering from Him, let us repent from the bottom of our souls of those sins that we did in the past or only thought about them.
Let us put our hand with trust into the right hand of the Lord and with patience, prayer and gratitude, let us spend the time that the Lord gives us, and complete the rest of the years of our life in peace and repentance. In the new year let us more often look into the Gospel, like in a mirror, to see our weakness in fulfilling the commandments of God, let us learn to repent of the multitude of our sins in tears, let us be renewed in the communion of the Holy Divine gifts of His Body and Blood, in order to be a new creature, to start living according to the will of God.
In this connection I recall the tale of John Damascene about Ioasaph, the prince of India. When blessed elder Varlaam came to him to enlighten him with the Holy Baptism, Joasaph asked the elder how old he was. The elder answered: forty. Joseph said with surprise: you look older, to which Varlaam replied: yes, I am 70 years old, but 30 of them I lived in sin and passions, not knowing God, and therefore I cannot consider them years of life, and only when I began to live according to the commandments of God, then I began eternal life.
In the same way let us turn to the years lived and answer ourselves honestly, how old we are, or maybe we are still babies and have not begun to live for God, and then our whole life can become only a line on the tombstone between the years of birth and death. We have lived one more year of life, which God gave us for repentance and thanksgiving: «I think of our years as of a spider’s web” (Ps. 90:10, as translated from the Septuagint); life is like a spider’s web: blow at it – and it will disappear, extinguish in the wind like a spark of a flame. We sometimes take the length of our days for granted, but each year of our life is a great mercy and gift from the Lord, Who, knowing our imperfection and unpreparedness, prolongs our path, giving time for the renewal of the soul on the way to the Promised Land of the Paradise. God-seer Moses led the Israelites through the desert from captivity in Egypt for 40 years. In total, 600 thousand people left Egypt, and at the end of the exodus only three of them remained, and Moses himself died, only from afar seeing the desired land, where rivers flow with milk and honey.
Everything in the world is «vanity of vanities! All is vanity», says the wise Solomon (Eccl. 1:1). In this vanity another year flashed by, bringing us even closer to the menacing boundary of the Last Judgment. But for a righteous person the past time is the wealth and joy of approaching the cherished boundary, like for a prisoner a reduction of the time of bondage, for a patient – the time of recovery from burden and ordeal, for a seafarer and traveler – approaching the cherished goal.
In conclusion, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that our prayer service is conducted on the day of remembrance of the martyr Vnifantiy, the saint whose intercession gives us the strength to get rid of our addiction to wine. To our great regret, on these days of the fast of the Nativity, many of those who call themselves Christians, forgetting about fasting, indulge in rampant passions and vices, spending the New Year’s Eve not in repentant prayer, but in demonic games, dancing and satiety. Without regret and bitterness it is impossible to say that lately the New Year’s Eve more and more resembles a demonic sabbath because of the shooting and explosions of firecrackers, fires, fireworks, from which sick people, old people and children, animals and birds suffer, and which, of course, averts angels who are partakers of silence. In many ways the reason for this is drunkenness, that voluntary madness that poisons our souls and bodies, removes us from God and good people, brings retribution, death and judgment closer.
How many talents, good undertakings, how many healthy forces and aspirations were destroyed at the bottom of the glass with the potion! Drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10), says the Scripture. Let us pray for those who, due to the sickness of their will, have not yet realized this and who seek pleasure and consolation in wine, and not in God.
Brothers and sisters! Let us thank the Lord for His love to us, unworthy of this love, let us ask Him for the strength to meet every year, every month, every day, renewing in our soul, conquering sins and bad habits, evil passions and insidious delusions, trying to adorn ourselves with meekness, gentleness, humility, obedience, unanimity, abstinence, chastity, mercy, faith, thanksgiving and love, in order to make each new year the year of the Lord, the year of God’s will and grace.
Glory to our God, now and ever and unto the ages of ages, amen!