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The Acceptable Year of the Lord

On the occasion of the New Year of our Lord 2009

The acceptable year of the Lord, again, is this present time, in which those who believe Him are called by Him, and become acceptable to God--that is, the whole time from His advent onwards to the consummation [of all things], during which He acquires to Himself as fruits [of the scheme of mercy] those who are saved. 

For, according to the phraseology of the prophet, the day of retribution follows the [acceptable] year; Where is the day of retribution? For the year has passed, and the day of retribution has not yet come; but He still "makes His sun to rise upon the good and upon the evil, and sends rain upon the just and unjust." And the righteous suffer persecution, are afflicted, and are slain, while sinners are possessed of abundance, and "drink with the sound of the harp and psaltery, but do not regard the works of the Lord." 
    This present time, therefore, in which men are called and saved by the Lord, is properly understood to be denoted by "the acceptable year of the Lord;" and there follows on this "the day of retribution," that is, the judgement. And the time thus referred to is not called "a year" only, but is also named "a day" both by the prophet and by Paul, of whom the apostle, calling to mind the Scripture, says in the Epistle addressed to the Romans, "As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are counted as sheep for the slaughter." But here the expression "all the day long" is put for all this time during which we suffer persecution, and are killed as sheep. So also the year there mentioned does not denote one which consists of twelve months, but the whole time of faith during which men hear and believe the preaching of the Gospel, and those become acceptable to God who unite themselves to Him.

Condensed from Irenaeus: Against Heresies,  Book II, chapter  XXII  ANF volume I