Sunday, January 07, 2007

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:

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.

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.

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Blogger Jean-Michel said...

Honestly, I prefer to say why such "apologia" is not what I find the best for promoting WR.

The problem being that it goes against the very teachings of the Western Orthodox Church Fathers, like saint Jerome or saint Gregory the Great or saint Martin of Tours. Very explicit on the matter is saint Jerome's sermo on the Nativity, explaining the "whys'" of natural events as "sign" for the Incarnation (solsticium), thus the use of 25th december for Nativity was in that time the Western Orthodox use, totally matching with what WR in France used to do, or what Greek byzantines are doing here, and even part of Russian byzantines of Belgian origin.

I prefer the way Dom James says : it's the way they want to do, they respect us doing the other way, and they don't argue against it.
It's better not arguing against it, as it would be arguing against Church Fathers teachings. That some groups prefer to follow the calendar system of the Synod they depend of is their right, of course. But now that very soon, that Synod will be in communion with Moscow, and that Moscow allows in Europe to use the normal local calendar, well, it promises to have some nice synodal talks in the coming years...

Well, Benjamin, what's your opinion on this?


7:56 AM  

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