My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Happy New Year! Many of the New Years traditions are set to bring good fortune, (Pork) prosperity (Black Eyed Peas & Collared Greens), and happiness (kissing and dancing at midnight) throughout the year. The idea is that if you bring in the New Year with all of these things they will endure all year long. That is an interesting thought, but I wonder how many of us take the same mindset with our faith?
In some churches, this is accomplished by attending the Liturgy of The Circumcision of the Lord/ St. Basil in the evening before heading to the New Year’s Eve Party. For others, it is done by performing the service of the Vasilopita at Midnight. Others still, attend Divine Services the next day.
I invite us all to think more on these three characteristics of a “good” year.
Fortune– While many translate this into Luck, we as Christians do not believe in the fickle idea of “luck.” Live long enough with your eyes open and you will see that there are very little “coincidences” in life. One will also see that very rarely will bad times stay bad or good times stay good.
Turnis in the Aeneid states “Fortune favors the bold.” Louis Pasteur states “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” In either case, there exists a level of action. One does not passively sit and wait for good things to happen. We have to go forward and carve out our own lives.
However, the virtues we should be seeking instead of fortune are HUMILITY & STRENGTH (COURAGE). Humility to graciously accept the good that comes our way and strength to endure the bad that comes our way, knowing that both are necessary for our salvation.
Prosperity– Many look to the success of individuals through monetary net worth and material gains, but for the Christian these fleeting things must be understood in their place. “Love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). And finally, “’Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages’” (Luke 3:14).
Unlike others, we do not measure God’s love to us through our “worldly” success. Rather, we see wealth in a different light. “
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-24)
The treasure in heaven that cannot be stolen are the Fruits of the Holy Spirit: “… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23). If we possess these, then we possess riches that surpass all things.
Happiness– Many look to happiness as an item to be acquired. Perhaps it is a car, a house, a good meal, a good relationship. Happiness indeed can take many forms, but each of those forms is ephemeral and can be destroyed instantly. A car can break down, a house can burn down, a meal can suddenly reveal a hair or a bug, and, as we have all seen intimately, relationships can sour from a single misspoken word. Happiness is both elusive and false. Philosophers and theologians have wrestled with the concept for years.
However, I believe that Fr. John Romanides of blessed memory said it best. “Orthodoxy is the cure to happiness.” Happiness is not what we think it is. Happiness is not something that can be acquired in this life in its truest form because everything in this life is subject to decay. Real happiness does not decay or lessen.
After all, the Bard of Avon said it best in his play Twelfth Night
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
Everything in this life, even the things we love can eventually dull the senses and contort that love to hatred. Picture in your mind that your favorite song is playing on the radio during a long car ride… now, suppose that song is on infinite loop and you can listen to nothing else. You may enjoy it the first few times, maybe even the fifth time but quickly, you will grow bored of listening to it . . . And perhaps you will grow to hate it. Such it is with everything in this life that is not Holy. After all, “Holy” Άγιος means “not of this world.” Our real happiness lies in Holiness and holy relationships: Parental, Spousal, Christian Friendship, and, of course, our relationship with Jesus Christ. These are eternal. To experience these relationships in truth is to experience real and lasting happiness.
If we seek true Fortune, Prosperity, and Happiness, we will see that our Faith is bound through them all and holistically bind them together. Happy New Year, my friends. Let us experience all of these things together!
I remain your servant in Christ,
Fr. Dimitri Tobias, Proistamenos