Sunday, November 15, 2009

30 (40) Days of Blogging; Calendars, Old and New

Icon of Ss. Basil the Great (left) and John Ch...Image via Wikipedia

Some of you may have come across the website for The Preacher's Institute, started by Arizona's own Fr. John Peck, the priest serving the Orthodox mission church in Prescott. Fr. John is a genuinely good person, and his "challenge" to blog daily for a period of 30 to 40 days during the time of the Nativity Fast is one that I know will be good for me, so I will do my best to take part and to keep up! Now, those of us on the old calendar haven't entered the Nativity Fast just yet, and won't do so until November 28th -- but for those on the new calendar, the Fast begins today, and thus, so does the blogging challenge.

I suppose that this first entry in the challenge would be a good place to express myself on the calendar question, which is not usually a topic of much interest or concern to me on a personal basis. I do respect that the question is much more serious for many people, and do not, in any way, mean to suggest that they are incorrect in their concerns. I have friends who attend churches that follow the new calendar, as well as our Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), in which we follow the traditional calendar of the Orthodox Church. I've heard the arguments of some who feel that it is important that the calendar be more closely synchronized with the movements of the heavens on which calendars are based, and so support the new calendar, and I understand their position. For myself, I am sympathetic to the argument that there is no compelling need for the calendar of the Church to be in harmony with the secular calendar; and, without surprising anyone who knows my sense of humor, I particularly enjoy tossing out wry comments such as, "When the Lord sets the date for the end of the world and the Last Judgment, those of us on the old calendar will have 13 more days to prepare than those on the new calendar."

Of far more concern, especially given the responsibility of being a pastor that is incumbent upon every priest, at least in the parish ministry, are those whose view of the calendar question leads them to take the stance that this is a question that borders on heresy, or, at least, schism. Yes, I will concede that the adoption of the new calendar by some, but not all, of the Orthodox Churches has produced an unfortunate division in our Orthodox "family." It is perhaps even tragic that we do not keep the same feasts on the same days. One example was in my email inbox this morning. Our parish will be blessed this coming Friday and Saturday with a visit of the Kursk Root Icon, and we have heard from many Orthodox Christians across the state who would like to come and venerate this miraculous icon. One such email observed that the icon will be at our parish for the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos, which falls on the 21st of November. Now, it is true that the icon will be there for the 21st, but it isn't REALLY the 21st (and so it is not the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos) -- it's the 8th of November according to the calendar of the Church, and so it is the feast of the Synaxis of St. Michael and All the Bodiless Powers, and the feast day of our parish.

However unfortunate it may be that we do not celebrate the same saints on the same days (at least we all keep the same season of Great Lent and Pascha, even if the specifics of the days are different), this does not, in my mind, justify those who, on either side of the question (but especially adherents to the old calendar) who consider those who disagree with their position as having ceased to be Orthodox. There are instances where Orthodox Christians will have no contact with others who follow the same teachings and practices and worship, who learn from the same patristic sources, who revere the same saints, and differ only on the calendar used. To me -- not that I am in any way an expert, or a paragon of virtue, for I am anything but, being chief among sinners -- to hold this extreme a view means that the essence of the Orthodox faith has been lost, or, at least, misplaced. If we do not love those who differ with us on the calendar question, but are otherwise one with us in proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Savior and Lord, and that the most complete source of the Christian faith is found in the Orthodox Church, are we truly Orthodox?

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