A New Year! Let’s Be PeacefulFr. Barnabas Powell
Today marks the start of a new Church Year on the Orthodox calendar, and, like all New Year’s celebrations, this offers us a moment to reflect and reorient our actions and our attitudes to a more peaceful life.
And in the midst of this chaotic age of “us vs. them” and “Red vs. Blue” and “Right vs. Left” and all the other ways we use our fantasy words to belong to tribes and even create new “tribes” out of thin air so we can have somebody to be against, it’s time we resign from the external drama and embrace the hard work of creating an inner life of peace and Christ-like joy.
That all sounds good, I know. And we will all nod our heads in agreement. But to actually do this is to put aside the opposite delusion from drama – and that is the notion that if we are to have peace, we have to ignore those ideologies that destroy and keep our mouths shut. To be sure, silence is a wise choice until you know your words will be seasoned with love and truth. But the peace the Faith describes has little to do with the absence of conflict and everything to do with a singular vision and a faithful inner and external life. Anyone who has that kind of life is going to upset a world gripped by their own intoxicated passions and delusional living. As St. Anthony once said “There will be a time when men will be mad, and they will see you, and say “You are mad. You are not like us.”
So, this Christian Peace has a different feel to it than the mere absence of conflict and “let’s go along to get along.” This is something of a different quality altogether.
Look at our lesson today in 1 Timothy 2:1-7:
TIMOTHY, my son, first of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
St. Paul is writing to St. Timothy as Timothy pastors his first parish and he’s going to have to navigate the interpersonal relationships in a parish, a city, and a country. It’s no easy thing to traverse these pit-filled paths of interpersonal relationships. You have to pay attention!
So, St. Paul gives young Timothy three spiritual labors that will create peace in his heart. These same labors (notice I said “labors.” You are going to have to work on this) can create an inner peace in you as well.
First, pray and celebrate God’s will. Notice the list of people Timothy was called to pray for: All men; Kings and all who are in “high” positions; so that the believers can live a “quiet, peaceable, godly, and respectful life.” If I am going to have peace, I can’t be self-focused. I have to turn my focus outward to others, to those who have authority over the society where I live. I have to pray for them, intercede for them, and offer thanksgivings for them. And my prayers, my spiritual labor focused outward will create the space for personal peace!
Second, understand God’s desire. You see, if I am going to have peace in my life (by the way, “peace” here doesn’t mean the absence of conflict as much as the resting trust that God is in control) I am going to have to expand my understanding of God’s purpose in the people around me. God desires that “all men” be saved and learn the truth. That’s what God wants, and, unless I learn how to want the same thing, then my desires and God’s desires are going to be in conflict. God desires all people to know Him and my life is going to be at peace when I settle that truth in my heart. Constantly looking for retribution or “payback” will never create peace in my life.
Finally, embrace God’s wisdom. My peace is always enhanced when I take the time to learn my faith. When I learn the extent God has been willing to go to accomplish His will and to achieve His desire, I will see just how much God loves me, and, even my enemies! His wisdom says the price He paid to destroy the enemies of humanity (sin, death, and Satan) is worth it! Which means you are worth the price Jesus paid to set you free! When that reality is constantly before my eyes and in my heart, I can rest knowing that no matter what life throws at me, it can never be greater than God’s love for me!
The Church New Year is called “The Indiction” and comes from the old Roman Empire pagan days when the emperors would levy a tax on the population to be paid over 15 years for the support of the army since soldiers served 15-year terms. Constantinople and the Eastern Orthodox have kept this tradition to this day by marking September 1st as the beginning of the New Ecclesial Year. All of this is connected to the rhythm of the harvest seasons of the year. Today, our Ecumenical Patriarch asks us to especially remember the great gift of our world and the environment to faithfully steward this wonderful creation as loving servants of the Creator Who made and then gave this beautiful creation to us to “tend.” We mark this day with special prayers that God will give us good fair weather, seasonable rains, and abundant fruits of the earth. We also remember the Lord’s entry into the synagogue in Nazareth and proclaiming the “acceptable year of the Lord.” The people of Juda marked this same date in their calendar with the blowing of trumpets and offering hymns of thanksgiving to God. All of this points us to the purposeful peaceful life in acknowledging our Creator and choosing to live lives of thank=ful faithfulness to Him
Today, are you a peaceful person? Do you know how to allow God to create a space for peace in your life? There is so much wisdom in this Orthodox Faith just waiting for you to embrace it, unpack it, and apply it to your everyday life. As we start this New Church Year, make a choice today to live a Normal Orthodox Life marked by inner peace and outward faithfulness to Christ and His Church!
P.S. Creator of the universe, setting times and seasons by Your sole authority, bless the cycle of the year of Your grace, O Lord, guarding our rulers and Your nation in peace, at the intercession of the Theotokos, and save us.
God bless us all at the beginning of this New Church Year!