A WR Apologia for the Old Calendar
On the day our Western Rite brethren in ROCOR celebrate Christmas, I chose to post this for further elucidation. At this blog, we are occasionally asked what we think of the Old Calendar. Here are a few words from a Western Rite priest (and monk) who follows this calendar, Dom James M. Deschene of Christminster Monastery:
Also, see my earlier post here. I wrote at the time, "Western Rite faithful generally are more traditional than most of their brethren (including some Byzantines). As a rule, they oppose changing 'the old ways' of any rite." This is proven by Fr. James, Fr. Michael, Fr. Barry, and all those in the Western Rite who observe Christmas today.
Q: Why does Christminster follow the Old (Julian) Calendar? And isn't this confusing? Doesn't this conflict with being western-rite?
A: It can be occasionally confusing, but not so much as people may think. A good liturgical calendar with dual dates obviates most confusion. (See our Calendar link.) We follow the Old Calendar because it is the tradition of the majority of Orthodox Christians throughout the world and throughout the centuries. Here in the United States one easily overlooks the fact that the vast majority of Orthodox outside the USA still follow the Julian Calendar. Thus our maintaining this tradition reflects our community and fellowship with the worldwide community of Orthodox Christians. This does not diminish, in our estimation, our respect for and fellowship with those Orthodox, in thiscountry and elsewhere, who follow the new calendar. We hope, in return, that we will be respected for our own observance. We do not see the Old Calendar as inappropriate for the western rite, since the western rite is simply the Orthodox rite of the west before the Great Schism, and the Old Calendar is the calendar of the Orthodox west. Naturally we regard the Gregorian/papal revision of the calendar as possessing no more validity than any other papal revisions of theology, liturgy or custom. Following the Old Calendar actually helps to distinguish western-rite Orthodox Christians from non-Orthodox western Christians. It can be a blessing to find ourselves out of step at times - especially at Christmas - with contemporary American life. This is especially beneficial in two ways. First, it reminds us that while we must live in our secular culture, we do not owe it our ultimate allegiance. This is an appropriate reminder not just for monastics, but for all Orthodox Christians. Secondly, it permits us to celebrate Christmas in a quieter atmosphere, unsullied by commercial and consumerist diversions.