Why is September 1st the Byzantine Church New Year?

Bulletin as of August 13 2020


The ecclesiastical year begins on September 1. This is an ancient Constantinopolitan custom. In ancient times, the year in Constantinople began on September 23. This date marked, from its institution by the Emperor Constantine (in 313), the beginning of the indiction, i.e., the establishment of the annual land tax. This date was chosen because it commemorated the birth of Augustus which, already before Constantine, marked the beginning of the year in a large part of the Orient. With the adoption of the Roman calendar in Constantinople and the suppression of the cult of Augustus, September 23 was stripped of all civil significance. As a result, the beginning of the indiction was shifted to a more convenient date, September 1. It is estimated that this change was made on September 1, 1462.  (From The Typikon Decoded by Archimandrite Job Getcha)


The Byzantine Year is guided by the life of the Theotokos (Mother of God).  We commemorate the birth of the Theotokos on Sept. 8th, and her death on August 15th, so the year begins just before her birth and ends just after her death.  In this way, the Theotokos is revealed as a guide.  In many icons she is seen pointing at her Son, Our Lord in a gesture of guidance.  Since liturgical time is also guided by her life, we trust her to be a worthy guide to and within the life of faith in our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.


When Sept. was the civil new year as well, the year was numbered not by the years since Christ’s birth (B.C./A.D.) but by the number of years since the creation of the world (based on a literal reading of time referenced in the scriptures.  10/1/2020 will begin year 7529 since the beginning of creation).  Since the New Year directly referenced the creation of the world, the New Year has become a commemoration of our responsibility to “tend and care for” (Genesis 2:15) the world in which we live.  Both and Catholic and Orthodox Churches use this season as a time of recollection and conviction to better care for the creation we have received and for which we are responsible.





Thursday, August 13 –

  • 9:54 AM