Concerning the New and the Old Calendars
A Presentation by Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) of Boguchar to the Congress of Moscow (8-18 July 1948)
The following English translation of a theological work by the newly-canonized Saint Seraphim (Sobolev) of Boguchar was first published on the Website of the Diocese of Etna and Portland, an Old Calendar Greek jurisdiction. It is Archbishop Seraphim’s presentation at the July, 1948 Congress of Moscow, where the subject of ecumenism was discussed at length.
[Due to the length and complexity of the footnotes found in the original post, we have not reproduced them here. Footnoted places are marked with an asterisk. Please refer to the original for the footnotes, which in this text begin with number 18 in the original.—O.C.]
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“Unfortunately,” he stated, "although they barely understood the details of the Alexandrian rule, and although they were probably far from understanding it as they should have, the Western Paschalists desired to reform this rule within a short time and arrogantly attempted to correct a superbly executed piece of work... If the period of the Renaissance had begun simultaneously in Western and Eastern Europe, if difficult circumstances had not stiﬂed education almost to the vanishing point in the ancient Christian Churches of Byzantium,... if the Alexandrian traditions and the learning of the early centuries had not come to an end in the East, then it is doubtful whether Pope Gregory XIII could have accomplished what he did."
To these words of Predtechensky we should add that the emergence of the calendar reform of Pope Gregory XIII was caused not only by the fact that Western Paschalists had not assimilated, and lacked the requisite understanding of, the Alexandrian rule or method for calculating Pascha, and by the collapse of education in the East, but also, and chieﬂy, by the Westerners’ lack of faith in the Holy Church, and more precisely, their inability to believe that in her the Holy Spirit lives and breathes as the fount of all Truth.
If the Roman Catholic Church had possessed this faith, then she would not, in the person of her Popes and her expert Paschalists, have undertaken to alter the Canons on which the Paschal reckoning of the Old Calendar is based, whereby the Holy Spirit expressed a truth, which is not subject to alteration. We have in mind primarily the Seventh Apostolic Canon:
If any Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon, shall celebrate the holy day of Pascha before the vernal equinox, along with the Jews, let him be deposed.
This injunction is mentioned also in the First Canon of the Synod of Antioch:
All those who dare to set aside the decree of the Holy and Great Synod which was assembled at Nicæa in the presence of the Emperor Constantine, beloved of God, concerning the holy and saving Feast of Pascha; if they shall contentiously persist in opposing what was then rightly ordained, let them be excommunicated and cast out of the Church (let this be said with regard to the laity). But if any one of those who preside in the Church, whether he be Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon, should dare, in the wake of this decree, to exercise his own private judgment to the subversion of the people and to the disturbance of the Churches, by observing Pascha along with the Jews, the Holy Synod decrees that he shall thenceforth already be an alien from the Church, as one who not only brings sins upon himself, but who is also the cause of destruction and subversion to many; and it deposes not only such persons themselves from their ministry, but those also who after their deposition dare to commune with them. And the deposed shall be deprived even of that external honor, of which the Holy Canon and God’s Priesthood partake.
The foregoing Canon of the Synod of Antioch strikes us as particularly noteworthy, because it not onlyprohibits the simultaneous celebration of Pascha with the Jews, but also proves that such a prohibition was recorded in the Decree of the First Œcumenical Synod. To be sure, this synodal Decree has not come down to us, but a well-known epistle of the Emperor Constantine the Great to all of the Bishops who were not present at the Œcumenical Synod of Nicæa, refers to its content.*
Let us cite the substance of the Nicene Decree, as set forth in the interpretation of the First Canon of the Synod in Antioch by Bishop Nikodim (Milaš), an interpreter of the Sacred Canons who is recog- nized by the entire Church:*
The Synod in Nicæa occupied itself with the examination of this issue (the time for the celebration of Pascha) for the purpose, by means of a common decision, of averting all discord that might arise from this matter, and of restoring harmony to the whole Church. First and foremost, on the basis of the Seventh Apostolic Canon and of the Scriptural teaching about the seventh day, the Fathers of the Synod decided on the following points: (1) the Christian Pascha should always be celebrated on a Sunday, (2) this Sunday should be after the ﬁrst full moon following the spring equinox, and (3) if it should happen that the Jewish Passover was to be celebrated on this Sunday, then the Christian Pascha should be transferred to the Sunday immediately following.*
To all of these canonical prescriptions of the Orthodox Church we should add also the Seventh Canon of the Second Œcumenical Synod and the analogous Ninety-ﬁfth Canon of the Synod in Trullo (Penthekte), which decreed how heretics were to be received into the Church:
Those who from the heretics join themselves to Orthodoxy and to the portion of those who are being saved, we receive according to the following order and custom. Arians, Macedonians, Sabbatians, Novatians, Tessareskaidekatitai [Quartodecimans], or Tetraditai, and Apollinarians, we receive on their presentation of statements of faith and on their anathematizing every heresy which does not hold as does the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God; and ﬁrst of all, we anoint them with holy Chrism on their forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears, and, as we seal them, we say: “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
As we see here, the Quartodecimans, i.e., Christians who celebrated Pascha together with the Jews on the 14th of Nisan, are clearly called heretics and are placed in the same category as the Arians and other major heretics, and for this reason, in the event of their repentance, they are to be received into the bosom of the Church through Chrismation (re-Chrismation).*
See where violation of the Canons regarding the time for celebrating Pascha leads. From the aforementioned canonical prescriptions of the Orthodox Church it is clear that we must uphold them reverently, without any alteration. For this reason, the Twenty-ﬁrst Canon of the Synod in Gangra says:
We wish that all things which have been handed down by the Divine Scriptures and the Apostolic Traditions be observed in the Church.
And the Second Canon of the Sixth Œcumenical Synod:
That no one be allowed to falsify or set aside the aforementioned Canons [of the Apostles, of the Œcumenical and Local Synods, and of the Holy Fathers], or to accept any Canons other than those herein speciﬁed, which have been composed under a spurious inscription by certain persons who have attempted to traffic in the truth.
Such a steadfast and undeviating upholding of the Canons is demanded by the Seventh Œcumenical Synod, the First Canon of which states:
We gladly embrace the Divine Canons and hold fast all the precepts of the same, complete and without change, whether they have been set forth by those clarions of the Spirit, the all-laudable Apostles, or by the Six Œcumenical Synods, or by Synods locally assembled for promulgating such decrees, or by our Holy Fathers; for all these, being illumined by the same Spirit, ordained such things as were expedient; and those whom they placed under anathema, we likewise anathematize; those whom they deposed, we also depose; those whom they excommunicated, we also excommunicate...
From all of the aforementioned canonical prescriptions it is evident to what a great sin the Roman Catholics fell when they overturned the Sacred Canons, which forbid us to celebrate Pascha along with the Jews. This is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which God does not forgive, either in the present life or in the life to come. For, the same Holy Spirit, God, speaks through the Sacred Canons, because the canonical, as well as the dogmatic, prescriptions of the Œcumenical Synods were composed in accordance with the words of Divine Scripture: “It seemed pleasing to the Holy Spirit and to us.”*
And the Divine Spirit, through the Apostles, the Œcumenical Synods, and the Holy Fathers, did not ordain canonical truths in order that we might subsequently correct and alter them, as being, supposedly, imperfect and erroneous. Such an attitude towards the Sacred Canons is completely unacceptable and blasphemous.
Thus, the Roman Catholic Church is guilty of directly violating and annulling the Sacred Canons by celebrating Pascha in 1805, 1825,
1903, 1923, 1927, and in many other years simultaneously with the Jewish Passover.*
And, worse still, the New (Gregorian) Calendar decrees that the Roman Catholic Church be at odds with the Holy Gospel through its distortion of the Gospel account. It is clear from the Gospel that the Christian Pascha took place after the Jewish Passover.
But the Papists, with their new rules for determining Pascha, not only regularly celebrate their Pascha along with the Jews, but frequently before them, as happened in 1845, 1853, 1856, 1891, 1894, and in many other years.* In 1921, the Hebrew Passover fell on 10 April, while the Papists celebrated Pascha on 14 March, i.e., almost a month before the Passover!*
But if, on the basis of the Sacred Canons, it is impossible for us to accept the New Calendar in its entirety, then by the same token it is impossible for us Orthodox Christians to accept the New Calendar in the form of a compromise.*
This compromise has been discernible of late in the life of certain Orthodox Churches and consists in the fact that Pascha is celebrated according to the old Orthodox Paschalion, whereas all of the ﬁxed Feasts are celebrated according to the New Calendar. But such a mixed calendar cannot possibly be accepted by the Orthodox, because it simultaneously gives rise to violations of other ecclesiastical ordinances, too, which are found in the Typikon and which we ought to observe religiously and steadfastly, since we should not deviate from obedience to our Mother, the Church.
Venerable Forerunner (the First and Second Findings of his head) ﬂuctuates between the Wednesday of Meatfare Week (lower limit) and the Tuesday of the Fourth Week of the Fast (upper limit).* But the New Calendarists do away with these limits, because they celebrate all of the ﬁxed Feasts thirteen days earlier.
The same thing happens with the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March). According to the instructions in the Typikon, the Annunciation is celebrated during the period between the Thursday of the Third Week of the Fast and the Wednesday of Bright Week.* But with the introduction of the New Calendar, the period during which the Annunciation can be celebrated begins on the Friday of the First Week of the Fast and extends only as far as the Thursday of the Sixth Week of the Fast.
But the sin of the New Calendarists with regard to the demands of the Church and her Typikon does not stop at this. Their negative attitude towards the appointed limits for the celebration of the great Feasts leads them into a yet graver violation of the Typikon.
The Church foresaw the coincidence of certain of the great Feasts with movable Feasts or with various days in Great Lent. In all of these instances, she has decreed a precise liturgical order. But in violating the appointed limits, the New Calendarists also wreak havoc with the liturgical order of the Orthodox Church.
For this reason, the New Calendarists cannot ever celebrate the Annunciation during Great Week and, by the same token, they can never celebrate “Kyriopascha,” that is, the coincidence of the Annunciation with Pascha, and in this way they clearly violate the Typikon.
A particularly shocking transgression of the Typikon by the New Calendarists is to be observed in connection with the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. The Holy Church honors these great Apostles to such an extent that she prepares for their Feast (29 June) with a fast lasting from eight to forty-two days. But with the introduction of the New Calendar, this Fast, contrary to the Typikon, is always abbreviated. And when Pascha is celebrated during the period from 20-25 April, then the Apostles’ Fast is completely abolished, because there is no time left over for it!*
One could say that this violation of the Typikon does not constitute a serious sin, because it does not involve any violation of dogma. But the words of Christ, “If he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican,”* do not refer to the violation of one or another dogmatic truth of our Faith. And yet, according to the testimony of these Divine words themselves, anyone of us who does not show obedience to the Church is to be cut off from her and enters into the ranks of great sinners, because in the case in question the severest punishment is imposed: excision from the Church. Furthermore, through their contempt for her Typikon, the New Calendarists commit the sin of disobedience to the Church publicly and brazenly.
From the standpoint of the Orthodox Faith, such a contemptuous attitude towards the Typikon is not permissible for the children of the Holy Church, just as any violation of her dogmatic or canonical ordinances is impermissible. And this is quite understandable.
Just as contempt for dogmatic or canonical ordinances leads to alienation from Orthodoxy, so contempt for the Typikon also leads to such alienation. In truth, the Typikon constitutes, for us, a sacred law, which gives us guidance in our God-pleasing services, Feasts, and Fasts. The Typikon is a sacred book, connected with the name of an outstanding vessel of Grace, St. Savvas the Sanctiﬁed, and it became accepted by the Orthodox Church as one of her basic books. The Typikon is nothing other than the voice of our Mother, the Church.* And we must not maintain an attitude of contempt towards this voice, but, rather, unhesitating and unshakable obedience, if we wish to be faithful and dedicated to the Holy Church and to all of her Orthodox Canons.
What do we gain as a result of violating this sacred book through the introduction of the New Calendar? If we use the New Calendarin order to establish new dates for our Feasts, Fasts, and services, then we shall in this way testify that the New Calendar is ecclesiastically correct, whereas the Typikon is mistaken. And this, despite the fact that we know that the Typikon derives from the Orthodox Church, the very Church in which the Apostles have laid up as in a valuable treasury whatever pertains to the Truth. And this, despite the fact that we are well aware that the aforementioned violation of the Typikon derives from the Papists, who are engulfed in the darkness of all heresy and error.
As the offspring of Papism and as an anti-ecclesiastical phenomenon, the New Calendar has nothing, other than confusion, to offer the Orthodox Church. From the outset of its appearance, the New Calendar was understood in this way by its opponents:
Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople and the local Synod which he convened in 1583 in Constantinople. From such an unsound beginning, the New Calendar remains to this day a tool of Papist propaganda and very detrimental to the life of the Orthodox Church. Hence, if we were to accept the New Calendar, despite the will of the Holy Church—albeit by way of compromise—it could only lead us to contribute to confusion and disorder in Church life, through which we would undermine by our own hands the authority of the Holy Orthodox Church.
Therefore, just as we will ﬁnd ourselves on the road of the grave sin of disobedience to the Church if we accept the New Calendar in its entirety by repudiating the Sacred Canons, so also do we ﬁnd ourselves on the same road of disobedience if we accept the New Calendar in a mixed form, by repudiating the requirements of the Typikon.
From the foregoing, it is clear why the Orthodox Church was so resolutely and ardently opposed to this anti-ecclesiastical innovation from the inception of the calendar reform until recently.
As soon as Pope Gregory XIII introduced the New Calendar, straightway in the same year, 1582, Œcumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II, together with his Synod, condemned the new Roman reckoning as antithetical to the Tradition of the Orthodox Church.* The following year, 1583, Patriarch Jeremiah, with the participation of Patriarch Sylvester of Alexandria and Patriarch Sophronios IV of Jerusalem, convened an ecclesiastical Synod, which condemned the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar into the Roman Church as contrary to the Sacred Canons of the Catholic Church and as violating the prescription of the First Œcumenical Synod concerning the calculation of Holy Pascha.
This Synod, in its Sigillion of 20 November 1583, urges the Orthodox to adhere steadfastly and unswervingly to the Orthodox Calendar and the Julian Paschalion unto the shedding of their blood and imposes upon all who transgress this injunction the anathema of expulsion from the Orthodox Church.*
The Synod of Constantinople communicated this decision to all of the Eastern Churches, to Metropolitan Dionysii of Moscow, to the Church of the Ionian islands, to the renowned champion of Orthodoxy in Western Europe, Prince Konstantin Ostrozhsky, to Niccolo da Ponte, the Doge of Venice, and to Pope Gregory XIII, who was responsible for disturbances in the Church.
Thus, the Œcumenical Patriarchs and, together with them, the whole Catholic Church in the ensuing centuries, reacted in a completely negative way to the introduction of the New Calendar.*
For example, Patriarch Kallinikos II of Constantinople, along with Patriarch Athanasios IV of Antioch, testiﬁed that the celebration of Pascha with the Papists, the rejection of the ordinance of the Orthodox Church concerning fasting, and the acceptance of the injunctions of the Roman Church constitute a betrayal of Orthodoxy and a violation of the laws of the Holy Fathers that is destructive for the ﬂock of the Orthodox Church, and that, for this reason, every Christian is obligated to celebrate Pascha and the Feasts connected with it, as well as all of the seasons of the ecclesiastical year, as these have been set forth in the practice of the Orthodox East and not in the manner of the heterodox West, which is alien to the Faith.
In his Encyclical of 1756, Œcumenical Patriarch Cyril V utters fearsome imprecations—applicable both in this transient earthly life and in eternal life—against all Christians who accept the New Calendar.* With the intention of protecting Christians from accepting the New Calendar, on the ground that it was a very great sin, in 1848, Œcumenical Patriarch Anthimos VI, together with the other Eastern Patriarchs, that is, Hierotheos II of Alexandria, Methodios of Antioch, Cyril II of Jerusalem, and their Synods, in their Encyclical in the Name of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, set forth the following Confession of Faith:
Since with us neither Patriarchs nor Synods have ever been able to introduce novelties, because the defender of our religion is the very Body of the Church, that is, the People of God themselves, who wish their religion to be eternally unchanging and identical with that of their Fathers..., “Let us hold fast the confession,” which we have received unadulterated from such great men, abhorring every innovation as a suggestion of the Devil; whoever accepts innovations censures as deﬁcient the Orthodox Faith that has hitherto been preached. But this Faith, in its integrity, has now been sealed, admitting neither decrease nor increase, nor any alteration whatsoever, and he who dares either to do or to advise or to contemplate this has already denied the Faith of Christ, has already voluntarily placed himself under eternal anathema on account of his blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as, supposedly, not having spoken perfectly in the Scriptures and through the Œcumenical Synods.... All, therefore, who innovate either in heresy or in schism, have voluntarily “put on cursing as a garment,” as the Psalmist says, whether they happen to be Popes, Patriarchs, clergy, or laity; Even if an Angel from Heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.*
Between 1902 and 1904, at the initiative of the renowned Patriarch Joachim III of Constantinople, the Autocephalous Churches of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Greece, Russia, Serbia, Romania, and Montenegro, in the persons of their Primates, expressed their rejection of the calendar reform of Pope Gregory XIII.*
Likewise, the Pan-Russian Synod of 1917-1918 decided on strict observance of the Old Calendar for ecclesiastical use.* In reaching this decision, the Moscow Synod took under advisement the opinion of Father Dimitry A. Lebedev, a professor at the Moscow Theological Academy, who demonstrated, on the basis of astronomical and canonical data, how destructive any accommodation to the Gregorian Calendar would be, ascribing complete superiority to the ancient Julian Calendar.”*
Unfortunately, the Pan-Orthodox Congress* that was convened by Patriarch Meletios IV of Constantinople in 1923 departed from the sacred traditions which the Œcumenical Patriarchs had so fervently and piously upheld over the long course of centuries.* This Congress decided to accept the New Calendar. The Orthodox laity of Constantinople confronted this uncanonical innovation with evident commotion, and Patriarch Meletios was forced to resign.*
And yet, Gregory VII, who succeeded him as Patriarch of Constantinople, attempted, in 1924, to introduce the New Calendar for the ﬁxed Feasts, temporarily allowing Pascha and the other Feasts dependent on it to be celebrated according to the old Paschal reckoning, until the convocation of an Œcumenical Synod. In the official periodical of the Greek Church, ἐκκλησία, and in certain Russian periodicals, an authoritative article was published in his name and in the name of his Synod concerning the acceptance of the New Calendar on the part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Under the inﬂuence of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Romanian Church also decided to celebrate the ﬁxed Feasts by the New Calendar. However, the Eastern Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem resolutely refused to look into the question of the changing the calendar.*
In his response to the aforementioned article, His Beatitude, Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and All Russia informed the Œcumenical Patriarch that, although he had received his letter concerning the implementation of the New Calendar starting on 10 March, it had, however, become impossible to introduce it into the Russian Church on account of the staunch opposition of the people.*
As well, the Synods of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in 1923, 1924, and 1925 totally refused to accept the New Calendar.*
We ought to remain in steadfast solidarity with these Orthodox Churches, without any compromise, observing the Old Calendar in our Church life, following the prescriptions of the Canons, which must remain unshaken, since they form one of the bases of the existence of the Orthodox Church.
Moreover, as attested by scientiﬁc data, the New Calendar contains many errors and is certainly less accurate than the Old Calendar. This is the reason why the Scientiﬁc Commission that was convened on 18 February 1899 by the Russian Astronomical Society* to make a decision about reforming the calendar stated that “there are no grounds for introducing into Russia (and still less into the Church) the Gregorian Calendar, which is notorious for its errors.”*
It is essential to point out that until recently it was not the Gregorian, but the Julian, Calendar that was used in astronomy.* The American astronomer Newcomb has already spoken in favor of returning to the Julian Calendar, as being simpler and more practical for astronomical calculations.
For us, the opinion of the celebrated Professor Vasily V. Bolotov, of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, is both useful and of the greatest interest. In the ﬁnal year of his life, the Holy Synod of the Russian Church appointed him a delegate of the Department of Church Affairs under the Commission newly established by the Russian Astronomical Society to inquire whether the Old Orthodox Calendar was compatible with the New Calendar.
Professor Bolotov investigated this question in all of its details, not only from an ecclesiastical, canonical, scientiﬁc, and historical standpoint, but from every possible aspect. Possessing all of this scientiﬁc knowledge, he took part in the astronomical meeting of the Scientiﬁc Commission, when the Commission examined the issue of the introduction of the New Calendar. And lo and behold, since the meeting could not reach a deﬁnite decision, and since many of its members had begun to incline towards the New Calendar, the chairman of the meeting suggested to Bolotov that he express his opinion.
Professor Bolotov set forth his historical arguments for two hours, holding in his hands the astronomical tables* which he had compiled. He defended the Old Calendar wholeheartedly. His conclusions in support of the Old Calendar were so scientiﬁc and incontrovertible that the entire meeting unanimously decided in favor of retaining the Old Calendar.
We will always remember this and we will never forget the testament which the great genius and savant Bolotov bequeathed to us regarding the calendar question:
As for me, I consider it wholly undesirable to change the calendar in Russia. I will remain, as I have in the past, a resolute and devout defender of the Julian Calendar. Its exceptional simplicity constitutes its scientiﬁc superiority over every other reformed calendar. I believe that the cultural mission of Russia regarding this issue consists in preserving the Julian Calendar in its life for the many centuries to come, and thereby smoothing the way for the peoples of the West to return from the Gregorian Calendar, which is of no use to anyone, to the untainted Old Calendar.*
08 / 02 / 2016
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