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Re: the calendar issue

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August 19, 2003 03:18PM
Glory to Jesus Christ!

Without doubt, the calendar question is something that should be examined objectively, without resentment toward the idea of adjusting the Church's calendar to coincide with the reality of the characteristics of God's creation, nor anger toward those who have tried to fix the discrepancy caused by our ignorance of just how complex our universe is, nor an overzealousness to adjust that could direct us to adopt heterodox traditions and calculations (e.g. an non-Nicene calculation for Pascha used by the West). Rather, we should examine the calendar issue by addressing the inaccuracy of the Julian Calendar PROPERLY, seeking to adjust the fixed feasts and equinox dates so that they would ultimately be astronomically "accurate," while holding to the sacred traditions of Christ's Holy Church.

I am not trying to defend what has already been created, because the so-called "new calendar" (Revised-Julian) IS flawed; that cannot be denied. However, so is the "old calendar" (Julian). Clearly, the answer then is to direct our efforts into adopting an accurate calendar on all counts, because after all, Our Lord created the universe as He did, and it is clearly our responsibility to adjust to how things are, and not try to manipulate how we react to His creation in such a manner as to fit our desires and biases.

The solution, therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, is to adjust the ENTIRE Church's calendar, including the Paschalia, to that recalculated by Orthodox astronomers. As I mentioned previously, BOTH the "new" and "old" calendars are incorrect, but in different ways (for a more detailed description of the technicalities, feel free to contact me). That does not mean, however, that we should simply adopt a calendar calculated and created by the heterodox, particularly since that used by the West is itself untraditional, and not as accurate as it could be (yes, astronomy has developed a bit since the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in the west in the 16th century). Again, the answer is to be OBEDIENT to Our Lord, and to adjust ourselves to His creation, by adopting a calendar that is astronomically as accurate as our limited understanding of our universe can allow it to be, while maintaining the sacred traditions that our fathers and forefathers have passed to us. (I renew my offer for a more detailed description of the technicalities if anyone desires it.)

Keeping this in mind, let me defend the idea of examining the issue in the first place...

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.

Agreed. The calendar issue is not worth all the schism which has resulted. But, does that mean that the Church as a whole should not attempt to adjust herself to match Our Lord's creation? Is the calendar something which it is really worth breaking communion over?

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.

Yes, all calendars are somewhat inaccurate. Likewise, no person is perfect either, nor will anyone (except Our Lord) ever be. Does that mean we shouldn't try to be the best we can be? I ask, therefore, should we just allow the inaccuracies in the Julian calendar to pile up, eventually putting the celebration of Pascha in the winter and the Nativity of Our Lord in the summer?

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).

Agreed. Revised-Julian Calendar is not the answer. But, the author neglects what I mentioned above. The same 35,000 years will "flip-flop" the Julian calendar to the situation I set forth.

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.

So what? This does not mean that "enlightened" scientists prefer the "more accurate" Julian calendar. They, and everyone else, use the Gregorian Calendar for 99.9% of secular calendar calculations, because it is the most accurate calendar that is in common usage. The occasional use of the Julian Calendar to more accurately calculate how many dates have passed, to not skip the 10 days that were dropped in the 16th century, does not mean it is a better solution for all situations.

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.

How does that affect the astronomical inaccuracies of the calendars in use now?

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.

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.

I agree that these arguments should not be used to justify the adoption of a newer calendar. However, my aforementioned concerns with the inaccuracy of the Julian Calendar is not addressed either.

Incidentally, I also find it interesting that the arguments against the Revised-Julian Calendar (which, again, I do not defend, because it is also inaccurate) use points that themselves are argued against. Note that the point about scientists using the Julian Calendar for their calculations is a reference to civil usage. Note also that the author states that a pagan calendar being adopted for use by the Church is acceptable (which, of course, it was), but I suggest that if the Church were to adopt the Roman Catholic Gregorian Calendar (a solution I do not propose), this would be considered blasphemous.

Ultimately, I believe the calendar issue is about obedience to Our Lord. One can ask why God created the universe so complicated as to cause such strife in His Church. Perhaps we can look upon this as an example of the opportunity to transcend our own personal biases and arrogance and simply accept Our Lord's creation as He created it. We should be obedient to God at all times, including adjusting ourselves to the universe He created, not trying to enforce "laws of men" upon it.

Let us, brothers and sisters in Christ, end this silliness. Let us be obedient to Our Lord. Let us also be obedient to our Hierarchs. And, let us end these schisms and hostility over this issue, because we are called by God first and foremost to love one another.

With love in Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Reader Alexander Vallens
a seminarian and sinner
Subject Author Posted

the calendar issue

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