The First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325] decreed that the Church year should begin on September 1. The month of September was, for the Hebrews, the beginning of the civil year (Exodus 23:16), the month of gathering the harvest and of the offering of thanks to God. It was on this feast that the Lord Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21), opened the book of the Prophet Isaiah and read the words: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2). The month of September is also important in the history of Christianity, because Emperor Constantine the Great was victorious over Maxentius, the enemy of the Christian Faith, in September. Following this victory, Constantine granted freedom of confession to the Christian Faith throughout the Roman Empire. For a long time, the civil year in the Christian world followed the Church year, with its beginning on September 1. The civil year was later changed, and its beginning transferred to January 1. This occurred first in Western Europe, and later in Russia, under Peter the Great.
He was born in Syria of peasant parents. At the age of eighteen, he left home and was tonsured a monk. He undertook the most difficult ascetic practices, and sometimes undertook a strict fast for forty days. He eventually took upon himself a form of asceticism that was previously unknown. He stood day and night on a pillar, in unceasing prayer. At first, his pillar was six cubits high; he later raised it to twelve cubits, then to twenty-two cubits, then to thirty-six cubits, and finally to forty cubits high. On two occasions his mother Martha came to see him, but he refused to receive her, saying from atop the pillar: ``Do not disturb me now, my mother. If we become worthy, then we'll see each other in the next world.'' St. Simeon endured countless assaults from demons, but he conquered them all by prayer to God. The saint worked many great miracles, healing by word and prayer many who were afflicted. People from all over gathered around his pillar-the rich and the poor, kings and slaves. Simeon helped everyone: healing some of infirmities, comforting those in need, instructing others, and reproaching some who held heretical beliefs. Thus, he turned Empress Eudocia from the Eutychian heresy and brought her back to Orthodoxy. He lived the ascetic life during the reigns of the Emperors Theodosius the Younger, Marcian and Leo the Great. Simeon, the first great stylite in Christianity and a great miracle-worker, lived to be 103 years old. He reposed in the Lord on September 1, 459. His relics were translated to Antioch, to the church dedicated to his name.
Joshua was the leader of the Hebrew people after the death of Moses. Of several hundred thousand Jews who came out of Egypt, only he and Caleb entered the Promised Land. Joshua lived to be 110 years old, and died approximately 1440 years before the Nativity of Christ. (Read of his faithfulness to God, his works and his miracles in the Book of Joshua.)
Saint Simeon the Stylite
Simeon the Stylite, the first of the pillar-dwellers,
An illuminated elder, with the radiance of an immortal,
Bound himself to the pillar as a willing sacrifice;
He was fully alive to heaven, and dead to the earth.
Fasting and prayer and all-night vigils-
By this hard path he sought salvation.
Early one morning, his mother came by:
``O Son, come down and let your mother see you!''
Thus she spoke, but Simeon was silent.
The mother repeated her plea again and again….
Simeon at last replied to his mother:
``I am in the service of the Heavenly King.
This life is a struggle and a preparation.
There is no time for empty conversation here.
But go, Mother, and choose the pure path-
Take care for your soul and live according to Christ!
After the present struggle is the next world;
If Christ finds us worthy,
You will see your son there, Mother,
And your son will delight in his mother's face.''
We should use all that is necessary in this world for the cultivation of our souls, for when death separates us from this world we will take nothing to the other world except our souls, in whatever state they have been formed here. When he was eighteen, St. Simeon the Stylite was so concerned about the salvation of his soul that one day he fell face down on the earth and prayed to God that He would show him the path of salvation. And lying thus in prayer for a long time, he had a vision that he was digging a trench for a foundation and, exhausted from digging, stopped to catch his breath. A voice spoke to him, saying: ``Dig deeper!'' Then he began, with greater labor and effort, to dig yet deeper. Again he stopped to catch his breath. But again he heard the voice: ``Dig deeper!'' He again began to dig, with even greater labor and effort. At this the voice spoke to him again: ``Stop, it is sufficient! Now build what you wish to build; for without labor, you will succeed in nothing.'' Those who labor little, and build the life of their soul on sensual shallowness, build on sand, which cannot uphold anything, even in this transitory world-and even more so in eternity.
Contemplate the lawlessness of David (II Samuel 11):
1. How David committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, while Uriah was away at war;
2. How David arranged the death of Uriah;
3. How God became angered with David.
on the Word, the Son of God
In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1).
The Logos-the rational, intelligent Word-existed in the beginning. This pertains to the Divine Nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. Brethren, by saying, In the beginning, do we think that the Word of God has a beginning? Or that there was a certain date in time when the Son of God was born of God the Father? In no way! For the birth of the Son of God can have neither a date nor a beginning, since time is a condition of this transient world, and it does not affect the eternal God, and therefore does not affect anything at all that is of God. Can the sun remain the sun, if the sunlight is separated from it? Will a man remain a man, if his mind is taken away? Would honey still be honey, if its sweetness is separated from it? It cannot. Even less can one conceive of God as separate from His Logos, from His rational Word, from His Intelligence, from His Wisdom-the eternal Father separate from His co-eternal Son.
No, brethren, the words are not about the beginning of the Son of God from God the Father, but rather about the beginning of the history of the created world and the salvation of mankind. This beginning is in the Word of God, in the Son of God. He began both the creation of the world and the salvation of the world. Whoever would speak of the creation of the visible or invisible worlds, or of the salvation of mankind, must begin with the Beginning. And that Beginning is the Word of God, the Wisdom of God, the Son of God. For example, if someone were telling a story about boating on a lake, he might begin it like this: ``In the beginning there was a lake, and on it sailed a white boat….'' No reasonable person would interpret the words, ``In the beginning there was a lake…'' to mean that the lake came into existence on the same day that the boat sailed on it. Thus, no rational man could take the words of the Evangelist, In the beginning was the Word…, as though the Word of God came forth from God at the same moment that the world was created! Just as the lake existed for thousands of years before the boat sailed on it, so the Word of God existed for a whole eternity before the beginning of creation.
O Son of God, co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, enlighten us and save us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.