Dear brothers and sisters,
Поздравления с Новым годом! Καλή χρονιά!
Greetings as we mark the civil new year – mindful of the spiritual opportunities that each new day, each month and each year afford us, as a gift from God.
Those who have had a year of spiritual successes and victories should thankfully accept the year ahead as a gift from God to further build upon the foundations and progress of the year – not resting on past achievements, but seeking greater labours and spiritual achievements for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.
For those of us for whom the old year was marred by spiritual failures and defeats, the new year is the Merciful Lord’s gift to us, as a time for repentance and amendment. Though life may seem dark, we hold on to hope, and struggle towards Christ, seeking Him as Life and Light. That which we have built may be shoddy and dangerous, and we may need to pull it down and start again, spiritually-rebuilding with care and attention, with Christ and His Gospel as our level and measure.
Those who have gained spiritual victories in the last year, should fight on, continuing to arm themselves with prayer, fasting, and works of mercy and compassion – not resting on the laurels of past victories, lest the enemy ambush them in the year ahead, taking them by surprise and attacking in the dark night of complacency. The soldier for Christ must remain fit, active and vigilant.
Those who have faced spiritual defeat should not allow themselves to flounder in the dark gloom of loss and failure, mourning and dwelling on injuries and mistakes, but rise to action knowing that though battles may have been lost, spiritual warfare continues and future victories beckon.
Cleaning, dressing and binding our wounds, strengthening ourselves with prayer, fasting, and the medice of the Holy Mysteries, we must arm ourselves and resume the battle with hope in the Grace of God, knowing that the Saviour is the Vanquisher of death. We may have fallen, but Christ is risen, and reaches down to raise us up, if only we will take His hand. Led forward by Christ the Victor, with the help of the Mother of God, the ‘champion-leader’, battle-scarred and limping, the vanquished may yet become the vanquishers and the defeated the victors.
For most of us. the old year will have been a mixture of the positive and negative, success and failure, but whether victorious or defeated, successful or at a loss, jubilant or sad, we must all look forward with hope and joy, reflecting on the last year with sobriety and a spiritually-critical eye: knowing what is to be continued and built upon; resolute on what must be changed; thankful for what we have received; practicing what we have learned; repenting for the mistakes we have made; trusting in the Lord, and appreciating every blessing He gives – with this new year as a great gift, with opportunities to seize, to the glory of God.
I received a message today in which the sender said that they hoped the new year will bring “all you want and hope for.” I must say that I do not wish this, but rather pray that we may all be granted what each of us needs for the spiritual life – and that which the Lord knows to be good and salvific for each of us – whether what He sends us is easy or difficult; bitter or sweet; what we want or what we would not choose of our own volition. May His will be done in each of us, and let each of us say to Him, “O Lord, let it be as Thou willest and as Thou knowest. O Lord, as Thou dost wish. may Thy will be done in me – Thine O Lord, not mine.”
May God grant us that which is needful for the salvation of our souls and the eternal joy of the Kingdom, and let us all invest in the year ahead, heeding the words of St Seraphim by making it spiritually profitable and beneficial, gaining imperishable riches for ourselves in the age to come.
“Acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit also by practicing all the other virtues for Christ’s sake. Trade spiritually with them; trade with those which give you the greatest profit. Accumulate capital from the superabundance of God’s grace, deposit it in God’s eternal bank which will bring you immaterial interest, not four or six per cent, but one hundred per cent for one spiritual rouble, and even infinitely more than that. For example, if prayer and watching gives you more of God’s grace, watch and pray; if fasting gives you much of the spirit of God, fast; if almsgiving gives you more, give alms. Weigh every virtue done for Christ’s sake in this manner.”
May God bless you, your families and loved ones.
In Christ – Hieromonk Mark