Антоний, митрополит Су́рожский

Sermons

Sermon 52 Sermon 53 Sermon 54

New Year Moleben

1 January 1977 /probably 31st December 1976/

In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

A year ago we were waiting for this past year to enter into our life, we were waiting with a shy and exhilarating joy; the unknown was unfolding itself for us, and this unknown was been given to us by God. We were waiting for this year to unfold before us in its purity, we were waiting to enter into it together with God. What has happened to this year?

For some this year has been a year that brought fruits, fruits of temporary life and fruits of eternal life, it is heavy with a rich harvest like a rich and prosperous autumn, for others, when they look back in the past year, it seems to be a devastated wilderness, it has waxed old, brought seemingly no fruit, been full of pain, of toil, of bereavement and of failure. To an important extent we are responsible for this devastation, this bareness, this sadness which it leave in our heart, but as an old saying has it, ‘There is no need to hope to undertake great things, there is no need of success in order to persevere in them’.

Whether the past year appears to you as an inspiration or remains in our heart as a wound, as a pain, let us look towards the coming year perhaps with greater wisdom, shyly, thoughtfully, but with the same hope; and the same determinations to make of it the year of the Lord, a year that will bring a harvest that will be joy and food.

The service we have just celebrated attracts our attention to three things: before we enter into the unspoiled newness of this year we must take stock of everything in us, in our heart, in our mind, in our will, in our actions and words that has made the past year ugly and poor, and bring all this to God in repentance. We will not be able to build together with the Lord a new year of glory unless we let go of all those things that have destroyed the past year. So, the first thing we are called to do is to search our heart, to examine our life, to renounce evil, to determine to seek God and His ways.

The second thing we are called to do is to bring forth to the Lord our gratitude, and not only to God, but to all people, to all those who are part of our life. How often we have sinned against the Lord and He has remained faithful, loving, unchanged, our Saviour; how often have we done wrong to our neighbour, our closest relatives, our nearest friends or people who have come our way and passed through our life, and yet they have also remained steadfast in spite of all the wrongs, their hearts have continued to beat for us, they have not grown cold, they have not turned away from us, they have not rejected us. How grateful we must be for this never ending patience and for the hope it expresses and for the faith it speaks of they have in us, and for the love they have in their hearts for us, and how grateful we must be for all and each.

And the third thing to which we are called is to enter into the new year with faith and hope. Faith in God, faith in the unknown, faith in ourselves – not the foolish faith which we have so often, but the earnest, deep faith that if God has called us to be, if God has entrusted us with life, if God has granted us to be called by His name ‘Christians’, if God has given us so much, then it means that He has faith in us and we can share this faith with Him; and with hope which is the same faith but with a spark of joy that will give us courage to walk in life.

Some enter every new year with a sense of fear, a joyless sense that life is perhaps not worth living. I was reading a few days ago what Dostoievsky wrote to his brother on the day when he had faced the execution and had been set free. On that day he understood how precious life was. The first three men to be executed were already standing there facing the firing squad; he came in the second group and then he looked up, and he realised that if life was ever given back to him he would not waste one minute of it, he would not waste one possibility, he would treasure every breath, every spark – and life was given him. Do we really need to be confronted with actual death in order to receive the New Year from the hand of God as a miracle, a gift, receiving it as if we were born again, as though this year was taken into oblivion, carried away into nought, all the dead past of our (?) life and, lo, we come into the new year as new as this year is, rich with experience and given all possibilities.

Let us stand into this new year as one enters a miracle; newness is offered – let us renew ourselves and enter it new, and let us, before we part, sing 'mnogaya leta’ to all those whom we hold, whom we love in our hearts and all those whom we loved, all those to whom we are indebted, all those who carry the burden of life upon their shoulders that we may live with less of a burden, those who in Church stand between the hammer and the anvil, and those who in the State carry heavy and frightening responsibilities. Let us remember those who long for our compassion, our pity, our love, our support, those whom we have not yet learned how to love, and may God receive us all in His mercy and teach us His mercy.


Sermon 52 Sermon 53 Sermon 54