Friday, December 29, 2006

Calendar Issue

It has been brought to my attention that a certain post involving the date of Christmas was not so warmly received by certain people, Latins in particular.

It was a cynical, tongue-in-cheek greeting by an Old Calendarist on the occasion of New Style Christmas. Neither he nor I (currently in the process of switching to the Old Calendar), bear any ill intention toward anybody celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord on the 25th.

Most Chinese continue to regard the Lunar New Year as the "proper" start of the New Year, as opposed to 1 January. The rest of the world does not object, nor are the Chinese ridiculed for celebrating the New Year on a different date.

Likewise, if you feel that we bear animosity toward anyone celebrating Christmas on the 25th, medical help is on its way.

I am not Roman Catholic. Not bound to the laws and doctrine of the Roman Church, I have every right as an Orthodox Christian to label certain Latin practices as "heretical" and "innovative", which I almost never do in polite company.

I have silently stood by as one Roman Catholic after the other make highly ignorant and presumptive statements about Orthodoxy, ranging from calling the absence of the filioque in the Nicene Creed an "alteration", the Eastern view of original sin as "heretical" and regarding the Byzantine rite as inferior to the Tridentine Mass.

Now, I must speak.

First, a little background information:

The Julian Calendar
The eponymous Julian calendar was introduced in 46 BC by Julius Caesar and came into force in 45 BC. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria. Up till the 16th century, it was the only calendar in use in Europe. The notation "Old Style" (OS) is used to indicate a date in the Julian calendar.

The Gregorian Calendar
The most widely used calendar worldwide, it is a modification of the Julian calendar. Proposed by Italian chronologist Aloysius Lilius, it was promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. It was first adopted by the Catholic states of Europe, followed by Protestant nations. The predominantly Orthodox countries in the East were among the last in Europe to adopt the new calendar (Russia in 1917, and Greece in 1923).

Modifying the Church Calendar
By 1927, all of Eastern Europe had adopted the Gregorian calendar, although the Orthodox Church had not. Patriarch Meletius IV of Constantinople (who was suspected by many of being a Freemason) convened a synod in May 1923, revising the Julian calendar. The Revised Julian Calendar was, in all practical usage, identical to the Gregorian.

It was not accepted by all - the Churches of Jerusalem, Georgia, Russia, Serbia, Macedonia and Ukraine continue to use the Julian calendar. Those that did accept it (the Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria), did it with hopes for improved dialogue with Western Christianity.

The Heretical Calendar
At the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, one of the topics discussed was the date of Easter. Linked to the Jewish Passover, during which the crucifixion and resurrection took place, most Christians had, by 300 AD, begun to celebrate the feast on the Sunday after Passover.

The council ruled
* that Easter must be celebrated by all throughout the world on the same Sunday;
* that this Sunday must follow the fourteenth day of the Paschal moon;
* that that moon was to be accounted the Paschal moon whose fourteenth day followed the spring equinox;
* that some provision should be made, probably by the Church of Alexandria as best skilled in astronomical calculations, for determining the proper date of Easter and communicating it to the rest of the world

Thus, a common formula to determine the date of Easter was created.

However, like most statements of the Council, *cough* the Nicene Creed *cough* the Church of Rome conveniently replaced with her own understanding. In introducing the Gregorian calendar, refinements to the calculations were introduced - because of the difference in calendars and formulas, Western Easter and Orthodox Pascha do not often coincide. Generally, Orthodox Pascha follows Western Easter by between 1 and 5 weeks.

For this reason (among many others), the Gregorian calendar is deemed heretical by traditional-minded Eastern Christians - if you need any more reasons, drop a note and I will answer as soon as I can.

However, heretical or not, the new calendar remains a papal innovation (reread 'The Gregorian Calendar' a few paragraphs earlier if you dispute this). Thus, I stand my ground on calling the new calendar a "heretical papal innovation".

Sheesh. This post would be totally unnecessary if Latin hardliners weren't so stodgy.


Anonymous Cats & Doxs said...

Is it because the Orthodox Church is a "Conciliar" Church, where the authority of an Ecumenical Council even in matters of a calendar is supreme to the authority of the Pope in the Catholic Church? Not that I'm comparing the Orthodox Church to the Novus Ordo.... just found it amusing.

Fri Dec 29, 09:09:00 pm 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christ is Born!
Glorify Him!

I have to disagree with you on this one. Being an Orthodox Christian in Seminary, I need to point out a couple things. Patriarch Meletius IV, while being a bit odd , is only accused of being a free mason by those who didn't agree with him on his decisions. The Orthodox Churches that changed to the Gregorian Calender, for most of the year, did so as to not be so out of touch with the modern world (as you know the canons of the church have been changed and ammended for many reasons), not so much to make nice with the Western Christians. The Gregorian Calender is NOT used to calculate the date of Pascha but is calculated using the system devised by the Church Fathers in the Ecumenical Council of Nicea. So if the Gregorian Calender is not used to calculate Pascha why the big fuss? I also want to warn you about "convertitis". I have had too many friends I know who have converted to Orthodoxy become their own canon lawyer/theologian/seminary. Traditional Orthodoxy does not mean Old-Calender, it does not mean head scarves, it does not mean women standing on the left side of the church while men stand on the right. That is not traditional Orthodoxy. Traditional Orthodoxy is Christ and following the decisions of His Church. Those things some claim to be "traditional" are tradition with a little "t". These "traditional pratices" are on the same level as where altar boys stand at the Little Entrance or how big you cut the prosphora. Yes the Papists are wrong in their choosing to make up a new calender without regards to the Church Fathers, but what is done is done. Orthodoxy is not a "cafeteria religion", you don't pick and choose what you like and what you don't like, and listen to your spritual father, because any error that might be made is on their head and not yours (and they're usually right). So beware what people tell you because they might not have your best interest at heart. (And I really hope you don't go over to one of the many schismatic churches)
Sorry for the rant, I just don't like it when people are fed biased information.
Christ is born!
Glorify Him!

Sun Dec 31, 04:40:00 pm 2006  

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