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Re: the calendar issue

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August 04, 2003 03:45PM
I generally do not respond to posts about my posts. I
just don't see the need because no one's mind will be
changed. And I almost didn't respond to James either
but I found something the other day that I thought was
worthwhile. It is by a priest of ROCOR. I will add a
couple of thoughts though. James wrote "I happen to
think that it is perfectly legitimate..."I would just
say as far as the faith is concerned it is really
irrelevent as to what you think. James wrote
"different strokes for different folks..."In reality
your opinions and not mine are the different strokes.


I HAVE BEEN deeply interested in the Calendar question
for over thirty years. I have yet to hear even one
compelling, or even good reason for the introduction
of the New Calendar and the resultant sundering of the
Church’s liturgical unity. In response to the reasons
usually put forth in defense of this reform, I would
make the following observations about the actual
significance of the Church (Julian or Old) Calendar.

THE ISSUE OF ACCURACY:THE OLD CALENDAR IS SUPPOSED TO
BE ASTRONOMICALLY INACCURATE, AND THE NEW CALENDAR
FIXES THIS.
Observations: All calendars are inherently
astronomically inaccurate. The Holy Fathers who
established the Church Calendar knew perfectly well
that assigning the vernal equinox to a fixed date was
astronomically inaccurate. Yet, they went ahead and
did this.

The so-called "Revised Julian Calendar" is
fundamentally flawed. By maintaining the traditional
Paschalion while changing the fixed calendar, the
Typicon goes out the window. The Apostles’ Fast is
severely shortened, or even ends before it begins in
certain years. Over the centuries, according to the
"Revised Julian Calendar," the date of Pascha will
gradually slip forward into the fixed year, so that
Pascha (and all the moveable feasts) will eventually
coincide with the Feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, with
the Transfiguration, with the Dormition, and even with
the Nativity (the last will happen in about
thirty-five thousand years, so you may say, "What’s
the big deal?"; but it will occur).

In fact, astronomers cannot use the Gregorian calendar
for their calculations, since it is "missing" the ten
days that were "skipped" in 1583. Computer
programmers, moreover, always make their calculations
of the distance between dates by using the "Julian
date." Copernicus, among other astronomers, was also
adamantly opposed to the Gregorian Calendar reform.
Let us incidentally note, in this vein, that the
Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences at the beginning
of this century found no scientific or astronomical
reasons for adopting the Gregorian Calendar.

Finally, as I will point out subsequently,
astronomical accuracy was absolutely not one of the
reasons that the calendar change was introduced by
Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis in 1924.

THE ISSUE OF OBEDIENCE: ONE MUST NOT COUNTER THE
DECISIONS OF ONE’S ECCLESIASTICAL HIERARCHY.
Observations. This is actually a good reason for using
the calendar your Bishops say that you should. It is
absolutely not in any way a justification, however,
for the original change of the Church Calendar.

An amazing issue here is the fact that some
jurisdictions have allowed individual parishes
actually to vote and choose which calendar they wish
to use! Here is a clear example of Hierarchs
abrogating their authority to lead and to teach. Lay
parishioners have no concept of the liturgical and
historical issues surrounding the calendar reform.
They are not theologically educated. Yet, they are
being asked to make decisions regarding abandoning a
calendar that has been part of the Tradition of the
Church for sixteen centuries!

Not too long ago, there was an incident that occurred
in the U.S. Navy. The captain of one of the larger
vessels offered his crew the opportunity to vote on
the place where they were to have their week of "shore
leave," after a long tour of duty. Because of this,
the captain was relieved of his command and demoted—he
had abrogated his authority as commander of his vessel
and had given this authority to his subordinates. This
story comes to mind when one reads that the Moscow
Patriarchate has allowed its parishes in Great Britain
to choose which calendar they wish to follow,
including even the date of Pascha. Do parishioners
really have the authority to overturn the decisions of
OEcumenical Synods and local Councils? This is
democracy run amok, in my opinion.

THE ISSUE OF THE CIVIL CALENDAR: WE LIVE BY THE CIVIL
CALENDAR, WHICH TELLS US WHAT DAY OF THE MONTH IT IS,
SO WE SHOULD ADJUST OUR LITURGICAL CALENDAR TO BE IN
ACCORD WITH IT.
Observations. This seems like an awfully weak
argument. Certainly, the civil authorities regulate
standards of weight and measure, and even time (that
is what the atomic clocks are for at the Bureau of
Standards). Do we really think that it is necessary,
or even permissible, for the civil authorities to
regulate when the Holy Church celebrates its Feast
Days? Whatever happened to the separation of Church
and State? The civil authorities should never be
looked to in questions that concern the liturgical
life of the Church. The Church has lived and
functioned under a broad spectrum of civil
authorities, with dozens of calendar systems. Yet, it
maintained its own Church Calendar, as it should have.
Yes, the Church Calendar was based on a pagan civil
calendar. But once that calendar had been adopted by
the church, it became something different. It was now
the Church Calendar, the mechanism that regulates the
"heartbeat" of the liturgical life of the Church in
time—that tells us when to fast, when to feast, etc.

At any time, in any place, the civil authorities can
arbitrarily change things like the calendar. Does this
mean that we have immediately to change the Church
Calendar correspondingly? I do not think so. Indeed,
the Jews, Moslems, Chinese, and others have maintained
their own calendars and pay no attention to the civil
calendars of the countries in which they live. There
is no reason why the Orthodox should not be able to
maintain a Church Calendar, as well.

Also, we never know when the State might introduce
some serious change in the civil calendar. Seriously
being discussed is the introduction of a calendar
consisting of thirteen months of twenty-eight days
each, plus a "world day" at the end of the year. This
would, of course, ensure that, each year, every date
would fall on the same day of the week, simplifying
all kinds of financial operations. If such a calendar
becomes law, should the Orthodox "join in" and throw
out their Church calendar to adopt the new civil one?

SUMMARY.
The fact is, there was and there is no compelling
reason for the calendar change. None of the reasons
usually brought up can serve as justification for the
Church abandoning its traditional ecclesiastical
calendar and for causing a rift in the liturgical
unity of the Church.

So far, for example, no one has come up with an answer
as to why it is permissible to ignore the anathemas of
the three pan-Orthodox Councils held in the sixteenth
century which condemned the Papal Calendar as
heretical. Likewise, no one has come up with an answer
as to why it is acceptable to use a "Revised Julian
Calendar" that severely shortens or even eliminates
the ancient Apostles Fast or that will—albeit some
time from now—allow Pascha to drift forward through
the Church year, until it will eventually coincide
with the Nativity. All of this, instead of an
extremely well-organized and brilliantly executed
traditional Church Calendar, where such aberrations
are simply not possible.

The argument, that if one follows the Julian calendar
eventually Pascha will occur in the autumn, is also
unconvincing. That happens in the Southern hemisphere
already. Perhaps we will see an argument, in time,
that it is only fair that the seasons be eventually
reversed, so that our Orthodox brothersand sisters in
South America, Africa, and Australia will be able to
celebrate Pascha in the Spring, as well. By the same
token, the argument that the existence of different
time zones keeps Orthodox from celebrating the Feasts
together is specious; the calendar envisions each
Feast as a whole day of celebration: a twenty-four
hour period from evening to evening, so that even in
different time zones, all are conceptually celebrating
together.

Finally, for all the discussion of astronomical
"accuracy," "obedience to one’s bishops," and "making
the calendar an idol," or such inane proclamations as,
"there is no time in Heaven," people forget that the
reason that the calendar change, with all its painful
consequences, was introduced in this century is very
well known; and it has nothing to do with any of these
issues. Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis of
Constantinople, the architect of the calendar reform,
was perfectly clear about his reason for this
innovation: it was to achieve unity with other
Christians.

Let me repeat this again: The reason the calendar
reform was introduced was to foster ecumenism. Period.

We must remember that Patriarch Meletios (who had
previously been Archbishop of Athens and was later
Patriarch of Alexandria—so much for the independence
of these autocephalous churches!) was a devoted and
self-avowed Freemason and a die-hard renovationist. In
1923, he recognized the renovationist "Living Church"
in Russia (which had married bishops!) and its
deposition of Patriarch Tikhon. Meletios put together
an agenda for a Pan-Orthodox Council that was to
include on its agenda not only the acceptance of the
Gregorian Calendar, but also the easing of
restrictions for fast periods, the shortening of
services, permission for clergy to remarry, and many
other renovationist ideas. He was an advocate of civil
dress for clergy, and most photographs of him show him
in a suit and tie with a bowler hat. [These
photographs clearly confirm Father Alexander’s
allegation about Meletios Metaxakis, who found most of
the Holy Traditions of the Orthodox Church, to quote
him, "outmoded, old-fashioned, and clear...impediments
to Christian unity"—Ed.]

This is the man who imposed the New Calendar on the
Church.

Now, Meletios may have admittedly had other motives
for his reform, as well. It is not unlikely that the
Patriarchate of Constantinople, in the early 1920s,
was in danger of annihilation by the newly secularized
Turkish government. The Patriarchate had lost the
protection of Imperial Russia and thus needed the
support of world public opinion, in order to survive.
Was the price of this support acceptance of the
Western Calendar? Very possibly so. So, the avowed
reason for the calendar change was that of coming
closer to Roman Catholics and Protestants, not a
single one of the reasons cited above. It did not
accomplish the goal of union with the heterodox. It
did, however, accomplish the goal of causing a bitter
and deep division within the Orthodox Church. Indeed,
Meletios died a horrible and terrifying death,
bemoaning the fact that he had "divided the Church."
Is this something we want to support?

There are those who have accused me of making an
"emotional" appeal for the preservation and
restoration of the traditional Church calendar. But is
the situation in which we are now living reasonable,
where a non-Orthodox coming up to an Orthodox
Christian, say, on the streets of Los Angeles, and
asking a simple question—"Is today a fast day?"—cannot
get a direct answer? Nor can he get an answer to the
question, "What Saint does your Church celebrate
today?" An answer like, "Well, uh, you see, uh, some
Orthodox are still fasting for the Dormition, while
some have already celebrated the Dormition," is not a
good or direct answer.

Is it rational to cause schizophrenia in our bishops,
who, in visiting different parishes, have to remember
which calendar they are on? Is it rational that
bishops cannot be spiritually united with their
flock—cannot feast with them and fast with them
because of the calendar issue? Some even have to
celebrate each major Feast Day twice! Not a very good
way to follow the Typicon! In one parish, they are
fasting and preparing for the Feast; in another, the
fast has long passed. Does a bishop who has already
celebrated the Nativity, as a case in point, have to
go back and fast for two more weeks, in order to serve
at an Old Calendarist parish? Or does he start all of
his fasts two weeks early, just in case? The whole
thing is ludicrous.

The same renovationists who brought us the calendar
reform are busy working on new ones. It is a fact that
Constantinople is already actively involved in
discussions leading to a single date for Pascha for
all Christians, and even discussing the possibility of
a fixed date. Stay tuned. Maybe we will hear
post-factum justifications for this reform as being
more "accurate," as well.

The issue of the Church Calendar is painful and
divisive In my opinion, this fact alone is an
excellent reason why the calendar reform should never
have taken place, and especially in a piece-meal
fashion. Although I cherish the traditions of the
Church and consider the Church Calendar to be one of
the most enduring and sanctified among them, I would
be less upset, had the decision to revise the Church
Calendar been made by all of the Bishops of the
Orthodox Church, acting together, with all of the
Orthodox Churches participating in the decision and
its implementation. This, however, did not occur.

Obviously, there are three possible resolutions to the
calendar problem. One, a return by all Orthodox
Christians to the sanctified traditional Church
Calendar. Two, acceptance by all Orthodox Christians
of Pope Gregory’s calendar reform, and the ensuing
absurdities regarding the Apostle’s Fast and Paschal
drift, as well as the acceptance of the ecumenist
goals of Meletios Metaxakis and the disavowal of the
decrees of three Church Councils convened to condemn
such an eventuality (1583, 1587, 1593). Three,
maintenance of the status quo: a continuation of the
division of world Orthodoxy into two groups which
cannot even celebrate the Great Feasts together.

It is clear to me which of these alternatives is
consistent with the teaching of the Holy Councils and
Fathers, and which are not. I hope that this is clear
for others, as well.
Subject Author Posted

the calendar issue

Marianne January 31, 2002 04:16AM

Re: the calendar issue

James January 31, 2002 01:02PM

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Re: the calendar issue

Marianne February 01, 2002 07:08PM

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Re: the calendar issue

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Re: the calendar issue

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Re: the calendar issue

Nektarios June 12, 2003 05:22PM

Re: the calendar issue

James June 21, 2003 11:47AM

Re: the calendar issue

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James August 10, 2003 03:06PM

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OC July 09, 2003 04:26AM

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Jesse August 19, 2003 02:44PM

Re: the calendar issue

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Nektarios August 22, 2003 09:50PM

Re: the calendar issue

James August 30, 2003 01:39PM