And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
+ Deuteronomy 17:18-
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In Old Testament times, the Hebrew people counted the months from spring, but the years were counted from the beginning of autumn. Likewise, in the Roman empire under St. Constantine the Great the new tax year started in autumn, i.e. at the end of the major harvests.
Hence, the start of the liturgical year is a time of ‘making up the accounts’. But the end also includes a new beginning: The wine harvest is over and soon we may taste the new wine. Likewise, at the end of the first solemn days, the Hebrew people celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles, rejoicing in the remembrance of God’s blessings.
In the context of the Old Testament, the first day of the New Year was the Day of Atonement: a day of reckoning on account of the Law of God, when the people of Israel would mourn for their sins and beg forgiveness, through the intercession of the High Priest.
One of the marks of this day was the blowing of the ‘shofar’ -
The years of the kings of the people of Israel -
In order that his reign would be well-
By the way, this is a wonderful way for anyone to become familiar with the Scriptures -
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One of the major Feasts of the Church, shortly after the beginning of the New Year, is the Elevation of the Cross. Like the ancient Day of Atonement, it is a solemn Feast (even a fasting day, though on Saturdays and Sundays we may use ‘wine and oil’).
But, solemn as this Feast may be, it remains an occasion for joy. For ‘through the Cross, joy has come into all the world’,* on the Day of the Resurrection!
* cf. Sunday Matins, hymn after Psalm 50(51)
In many places in the Orthodox world, it is customary to decorate the Cross -
Thus, as we look upon the life-
Autumn around the Mediterranean is still a very sunny period, and a good time to dry part of the plentiful harvest of fruit. This starts in early summer with the apricots, now it is time for plums, raisins etc. Special sweets, made with fruit juices (thickened with flour) or fruit puree (reduced till sufficiently thick), can also be dried.
The leathery sweets can then be stored, to make a wonderful welcome for guests on fasting days, or a tasty treat for the (grand)-
The dry climate of most of the Biblical lands is part of the background of Holy Scripture.
Especially the summer may be without any rain at all. Weeds that have sprung up among the stones, soon wither. And by the end of summer most of the ‘herbs of the field’ are also dry and yellow.
Thus, when the Psalms refer to the grass or herbs that soon wither, this turns out to be a strong image indeed.
For nothing will survive the summer heat, unless it is deeply rooted. Or generously watered (maybe even twice a day) by a diligent gardener. Or it grows right next to a source of living water, which never dries up…
In such a climate, with the coming of the first rains after the hot and dry summer, nature revives: Suddenly, everywhere green herbs appear, and some bushes even flower for the second time in that same year.
Thus, autumn gets a double character:
On the one hand the end and the reckoning (see above), and the falling of the leaves, as some trees prepare for winter.
On the other hand the promise of this ‘second spring’, which shows the fertility of the earth -
In colder areas, autumn is often known for the colouring of the leaves -
Here, nature seems to accentuate mostly the time of the end. Although a careful observer may see new promises even here, in the half-
Thus, even if the climate in which we live, does not show us exactly the Biblical imagery of the dry summer and the second flowering (see above), it still proclaims the same wisdom concerning the end and the new beginning …