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January 1, 2021

Welcoming the New Year of Holiness (Archim. George Kapsanis)


By Archimandrite George Kapsanis,
Former Abbot of Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos

Delivered in 1989

Time for the people of the Old Testament was a time of nostalgia, because the Redeemer had not yet appeared. But after the Incarnate Economy of the Lord, time for people is a time of salvation, because the Savior has come and salvation is available to all.

But this salvation can only be achieved through continual repentance. Repentance is what helps us recognize that God is our Savior and that only through our hope in Him can we obtain mercy and be saved. Repentance is what humbles us before God, and therefore draws God to us. Repentance is what makes us see our sins, and therefore we ought to ask for forgiveness for them and make amends with the spiritual struggle.

So for us Christians time after Christ is a time of repentance and salvation. And if this is true of all Christians, even more so is it true of us monks, who came out into the wilderness only to be able to make repentance the main concern of our lives and to truly experience the time after Christ, the time since the first coming of the Lord until the time of His second coming, as a time of salvation and as a time of repentance.

With these thoughts we welcome the new year, which of course is something conventional. Time is eternal. It is a gift from God, until we reach eternity. But conventionally we humans divide the time of our lives. Even so, this conventional division of time into intervals of time makes it easier for us, if we want to take advantage of it and actually experience this time, the gift of God, as a time of repentance and a time of salvation.

And because every year on this day I usually tell you something like a forefront of the spiritual struggle of the whole year, and some remember it and struggle, others forget it - I hope most people remember it - I would like to remind you this year, instead of any other advice to your love, that prayer, with which the prayer of the trisagion hymn ends, and which I think is good this year to always have before our eyes.

This holy prayer ends as follows: "Sanctify our souls and bodies, and let us worship You in holiness all the days of our lives, through the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and all the saints of the ages who have pleased You. For You are holy our God and to You we ascribe glory, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages."

Since our God is Holy - in the absolute sense of the word Holy - and we are His creatures, we also have holiness as the purpose of our lives. But this holiness we cannot achieve unless we ask Him who is the source of holiness. That is why we ask Him who is the source of holiness to sanctify us as well: "Sanctify our souls and bodies." May we all be sanctified, all clean, all vessels of the All-Holy Spirit. "Let us worship You in holiness", with holiness, with fear of God, with reverence, "all the days of our lives, through the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and all the saints."

So we ask God for holiness of soul and body, holiness throughout our lives, so that the Lord does not allow us to fall into any of the passions hated by God, which infect both soul and body, but to be pure and pleasing before Him, and this to be done with the intercessions our Lady the Theotokos and all the Saints.

Let us therefore strive, brethren, for the holiness of the soul and the body, through repentance, immediately removing any of our slip-ups and any of our transgressions, so that at all times we may be honorable vessels, fit before the Holy God, for this is what the Holy God awaits from us, Who is our Maker and Creator and Savior.

I pray the new year to be a time of salvation, repentance, sanctification and perfectly pleasing to the Lord our God. Many years to everyone.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.