In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Thou shalt bless the crown of Thy year with goodness, it says in the Psalter (Ps. 64:12). This prayer is like a call to the Lord to bless the cycle of the year. After all, a crown is round, like a cycle. We ask the Lord to bless the annual cycle with His goodness, mercy, and lovingkindness.
From year to year we greet the New Year. When we are very small we hope in a fairy tale, in a miracle. When we grow up, we also hope for a miracle. We hope that everything will suddenly change. But we know very well that the world, which lieth in evil, will not change until the Second and Glorious Coming of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Just the same there will be joy and trials, happiness and woes, temptations and happy, blessed, peaceful moments and days. The world will not change. Neither will God change in His mercy, His Providence for every person; care for the salvation of every person who has come into this world. Only we can change. We Orthodox Christians are called to life not by fairy tales but by faith, to live in hope in God and on the goodness that we await from the Lord Himself. The entire Holy Scripture teaches us this, all the divine services, and the whole Church with its Holy Scripture.
This year was very hard for everyone. We’re all exhausted. In the spring, when this trouble came upon us we said that it’s like a world war against all mankind. We don’t yet know for sure where it came from. It is either a man-made catastrophe, or the result of a string of circumstances. But this trial is all over the world and in our country as well. We have lived through this attack by God’s mercy, albeit with some hardships. But not like those who are at the front lines of this terrible war. This evening I called one of our doctors in Pskov. Always sure, strong, and filled with energy, this time his voice was absolutely crestfallen and barely alive. I was shocked by this. He said to me, “I’ve only just crawled out of the ‘red zone’.” His comrades were still there. He was going to rest a little and then go back. Such are the trials of those people who are fighting hand to hand with the evil directed against the human race. We pray for them, thank them, and are indebted to them. We understand that this trial will not end soon, that it’s going to go on for some time.
We should be asking the Lord for courage, so that we might meet all these attacks, disturbances, and disasters like Christians; that we would overcome them first of all in our own souls. Despite everything we must remain Christians, faithful to our Promise with God. Each one of us has made a promise with Christ Himself, with the very Holy Trinity, to be faithful in faith, hope, and love, no matter what happens to us.
This year we have met up against unfaithfulness, and betrayal, and human weaknesses. If there is anything an Orthodox Christian should ask of the Lord it is strength to fulfill the Commandments of Christ for the sake of the great blessedness that is under the heavens—the unification of our souls with God. Sooner or later, each person will have to pass into the next world, to stand before God’s Judgment. This will pass no one by. Although in the human soul that same fairy tale that they will somehow avoid it exists to the very end. We priests, who confess people, often see that before death people who are clearly departing to God’s Judgment still comfort themselves before death with those same fairy tales, and it’s obvious to everyone but themselves. But a Christian is called to honestly and directly look into the eyes of life, to remember life and death. This remembrance of death is one of the greatest virtues, which helps us sin less, carry less evil into that world, to relate ourselves and our deeds to the pain of others, with responsibility before God.
We are called to strengthen each other before the coming new year. First of all, let us congratulate each other with passing old year. It was very hard—let it pass away! There was something joyful and bright in it. And the trials that it brought also brought us strength. The new year comes, a new crown of the year—as it’s written in Holy Scripture—the annual cycle. Let us pray to the Lord that we would be preserved as Orthodox Christians; that we would preserve our unity and connection with God. Then nothing and no one can frighten us. Misfortune and joy will not change us; they will not make us proud, arrogant, exalting ourselves over other people, or light-minded. Trials cannot break us if within us as in our own temple is Christ! To desire this, to strive for this, to rejoice in this, to count this as out greatest happiness is given only to Orthodox Christians—to those who are raised up to this very great understanding. Of course, we will pray for each other’s health; we pray for your strength, for peace in your families and souls; for faith, which will always strengthen you; that you will always have friends, loved ones and family nearby who can support you in your joys and sorrows; so that your children would bring you joy; and so that happiness would fill your souls. For this, our souls must always be with God. And only then will joy and peace, all the trials of the new year will be good, and lead us to salvation, to peace, and to a strengthening of the Orthodox Christian in us.
I congratulate you with the New Year, which we celebrate on January 1 according to the old and new calendar, since 1699 when Peter I introduced it. Before that we celebrated it in September. And when Prince Vladimir was baptized, the secular new year was March 1. This is simply tradition. So that there would not be any extraneous superstitions, we count the civil new year from January 1.
May the Lord preserve you all! May God help you!