The New Year is upon Us…. the Ecclesiastical New Year!
By Pres Mallory Kasapakis
Presbytera Mallory provides an inside and outside perspective to the Orthodox Church, as a convert to the Orthodox faith and now a Presbytera. Alongside her husband, Fr. Sampson Kasapkis their family is currently serving the community of Saint Stefanos Greek Orthodox Church in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Presbytera joined OCN to share the beauty of Orthodoxy and to create family resources.
The leaves are starting to turn and the days are getting shorter, but our church year is just beginning. When we think about the seasons of the church, instinctively we think of Great and Holy Lent or the Nativity Season, yet the importance of the Ecclesiastical New Year (celebrated on September 1st) is often forgotten. Without question there is beauty and purpose in each distinct period of the Ecclesiastical Year. Our liturgical calendar is filled with great feasts, saint commemorations, fasting, and reading schedules, each specifically and purposefully placed by the Church in its wisdom to help keep us “on track” throughout the year. This new season is the appointed time for Orthodox Christians to recalibrate and reset, with the Church at our center.
We are all given the same 24 hours in a day, but how we use and prioritize our time makes all the difference in accomplishing our goals. God has given us this gift of time and He expects us to use it wisely so that we may glorify Him. He calls us to be good stewards and to take care of our time just as we do our talents and treasures. Even so, we don’t always know how to make the best of our time. According to Development Academy and Acuity Training, less than 1 in 5 people (18%) have a proper time management system. Thousands of books and online resources promise “time management and productivity” assistance. Indeed, this topic is one of the most popular in personal development categories and tops podcast charts on all platforms. In most cases, we desire more productive hours in our day; we strive to be more intentional in our work and try hard to make space for a different type of success. Ultimately, we want to become more efficient and effective at what we do.
Can we apply these very business-minded practices of time management and productivity to our daily spiritual lives? Would they help us become more effective and a better Orthodox Christians? Let’s look at this approach in more detail.
STEP 1: Goal Setting
In this time of fall planning and preparation, ask yourself: “How can I realign my heart, my family’s priorities, and most importantly my time with the Church?” Over the past several years our family has set “New Year’s Resolutions” for the Ecclesiastical New Year, just as others do at the beginning of the calendar year.
Examples of goals might include spending more time in prayer, following stricter fasting practices, and becoming more involved within the church community, perhaps by attending a new ministry or joining a Bible study. Each person and family will set goals unique to their particular situation in life.
STEP 2: Prioritization
Prioritizing our responsibilities is difficult for many. There are certain non-negotiables: sleep, eat, exercise, clean our homes, work in order to provide for our families. But we also have to make time for God and the Church. Attending Divine Liturgy and receiving the Eucharist is something we must do as Orthodox Christians. Another non-negoitable is educating ourselves about the Orthodox Faith through catechism and study.
St. John Chrysostom said:
We spare neither labors nor means in order to teach our children secular sciences, so that they can serve well the earthly authorities. Only the knowledge of the holy Faith, the service of the Heavenly King are a matter of indifference to us. We allow them to attend spectacles but we care little whether they go to Church and stand within it reverently. We demand an account from them of what they learned in their secular institutes—why do we not demand an account from them of what they heard in the Lord’s house?
—Twenty-first Homily on the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Our ultimate goal is making the active choice to prioritize the events and activities that will bring us closer to God.
STEP 3: Stay Organized
Once we have prioritized our responsibilities, it’s time to open our Google calendars or dust off our planners and use them. One of the best forms of accountability is to write down. Take our goals and priorities and put an action to them; add them to our calendars, sync our church’s calendar and activities to the calendar on our phone; decide upon the activities we will attend. Circle Divine Liturgy every Sunday and make it a priority.
STEP 4: Establish a Routine
Humans are creatures of habit, so consistency is key. Adding meaningful practices into our daily routine doesn’t have to be inconvenient. A widely used tool in time management is to combine similar tasks. Think of ways to streamline your schedule and be efficient with your time. For example, while your child is attending a GOYA meeting, schedule a time for prayer or listen to a weekly Bible study from the OCN website. If your resolution this Ecclesiastical Year is to spend more time in Scripture, then include the Church’s daily reading (available as an App) before you read the news headlines or your emails. These simple practices do not add much time to your already regular routine, but the benefits to your spiritual life are immeasurable.
Set some time to clear your mind and listen to what God is calling you to do in this Ecclesiastical New Year!