There was a priest who celebrated his birthday, which was the same as his name day. When the Divine Liturgy was over, he went out of the sanctuary to the ambo, where other priests and parishioners gathered to congratulate him on his birthday. The priest’s face radiated joy. He exclaimed, quoting the Easter sticheron, This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Indeed, one’s birthday and name day is his or her own little Easter, a day that reminds of his or her own future resurrection. All people around him or her share his or her joy. That is the day when a new universe is born. God, in his unspeakable love, created a new being in his image and likeness.
People sometimes ask, “Why did the Creator create sinners if He had known in advance that they would go to hell?” I believe the answer is that hellfire is still better than non-existence. What can compare with the self-perception of a human soul as a personality, as an individual being, and with being happy about that fact?
That is why, of course, your birthday is a very special day when the world became a better, nicer, and more beautiful place because YOU, a unique person, came into it.
Why is suicide the gravest sin? It is because human life is a miracle. It is a great miracle of God! If you hate or dislike it, if you want to destroy it and send it back to the non-existence, it is the same as, for example, hating a butterfly, a glorious sunset or dawn. It’s the same as hating God. It’s the same as hating love.
One’s birthday is like a supernova!
It is a reflection of enormous God’s love, which created a completely unique being out of non-existence. There is no one else like you in the world.
Of course, the feeling that we should have on our birthday is gratitude to God, our Creator, to our parents, and to life.
The best way to express our gratitude to God is to confess and take communion. You can also have a thanksgiving moleben on your birthday. Its apex is when the priest lifts up his arms in front of the Holy Table (it is always one of the most awe-inspiring and intense moments during worship) and proclaims solemnly, “Glory to Thee, our God the Benefactor, unto the ages of ages!” This triumphant exclamation is filled with pious love. It expresses our infinite fondness as we address our beloved Heavenly Father. It resembles the Matins exclamation, “Glory to Thee who hast shown us the light!” Indeed, God has shown us the light.
You can read a special prayer, which is called Birthday Prayer. It contains the following amazing and precious words, “O Lord bless the year that lieth before me and the rest of the days of my life. Amen.” If we ask God for help wholeheartedly, the Lord will definitely send us his grace.
You can celebrate your name day the same way. Your name day is the day of the saint whose name you bear. Name day is a day, which all people who are named after a certain saint celebrate. That saint is your heavenly patron who always intercedes and prays by God’s Throne for the salvation of your soul. He guides you and helps you in your earthly life. This is precisely why the Church recommends praying to your patron saint every morning after your usual morning prayers: “Pray to God for me, O Saint (Name) well-pleasing to God. I fervently entreat you who are the sure help and intercessor for my soul.” I think that it would be helpful if you read the akathist to your holy heavenly patron on your name day. Name day is often referred to as your Angel’s day. There are two days of the Orthodox liturgical year when all Orthodox Christians celebrate their name days and their Angel’s days: the Sunday of All Saints, celebrated on the Sunday that follows the Holy Trinity Day, and November 21, the Day of the Synaxis of Archangel Michael and all Heavenly Hosts. There is another positive side to celebrating name days: we recall the day of our spiritual birth, that is, the day of our baptism. The naming prayer is read before the Sacrament of Baptism.
In the end, you have to realize that the Lord carries us in his hands every day of our lives. He takes care of the air we breathe, the bread we eat, and our safety. He protects us from evil spirits and from many other dangers we don’t even recognize.
Happy is the man whose life becomes a thanksgiving hymn to God, our loving Father. Essentially, that person asks God for just one thing. He is afraid of falling out of God’s warm palms deliberately. All he wants is to remain with God forever, submitting himself to God’s will. The Lord carries us to the greater bliss, that is, the new Jerusalem, where pain, tears, and despair are no longer – a place where a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb (See Revelation 22:1).
This is why we, who were created out of nothing and destined for eternal life, should chisel these great and wonderful words on our hearts, This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
May this Easter joy shine in the hearts of all people who celebrate their birthdays!
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds