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A Common "Easter"

Question: In our local paper I read that the World Council of Churches, with the cooperation of Orthodox representatives, has settled on a new date for Pascha that is based on the dictates of the Council of Nicea. If this is true, will it be possible for all Orthodox to accept this, since it is the Orthodox formula? (M.P., CT)

Answer: In one of the most deceptive press releases ever issued by the World Council of Churches (WCC), this powerful ecumenical organization announced on March 25, 1997, in a statement entitled, "The date of Easter: Science Offers Solution to Ancient Religious Problem," that "senior church representatives have come up with an ingenious proposal to set a common date for Easter." The proposal in question was hammered out at a conference in Aleppo, Syria, from March 5 to March 10, 1997, convened under the auspices of the WCC and the Middle Eastern Council of Churches. Represented at the conference were consultants from the Roman Catholic Church, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, various European Protestant Churches, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, and Moscow. The Orthodox Church in America (in the person of Professor John Erickson) and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada also sent representatives to the conference, which was "staffed," according to the WCC news release, by "Fr. Dr. Thomas FitzGerald [sic] (director) and Rev. Dr. Dagmar Heller (executive secretary) from WCC Unit I: Unity and Renewal..." (Fitzgerald is a Greek Orthodox Priest assigned to the ecumenical center of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Chambesy, Switzerland—Ed.).

According to WCC officials, the conference in Aleppo, recognizing that the celebration of "Easter" on "different dates [in the Christian East and West—Ed.] gives a divided witness and compromises the churches' credibility and effectiveness in bringing the Gospel (good news) to the world," divised a formula for the common celebration of Christ's Resurrection. In a remarkably dishonest reference to the common date for the celebration of Pascha established at the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea—removing any reference to the proscription against celebrating Pascha at the same time as the Jewish Passover (a deception for which Orthodox ecumenists have been preparing us for decades)—, the Aleppo representatives claim that, in their proposed common date for Easter, "the Nicea principle will be preserved and neither Churches in the East or [sic] West will have to change their policy." The fact is, of course, that the common date proposed, which will be implemented, if it is universally accepted by the Christian world, in the year 2001 (when Orthodox Pascha and the heterodox Easter feast coincide), presumes that the Orthodox Church (Julian or Old) Calendar will not be used to determine the date of the spring equinox, as it was at Nicaea and as it has been by the majority of the Orthodox Church since. And because, as we observed above, Orthodox ecumenists have, through their deliberately deceptive and misleading "scholarship," made the issue of the common celebration of Pascha and the Jewish Passover a non-issue, this element in the Nicean formula was also wholly ignored at Aleppo.

Recognizing the lie contained in their claims that this new proposal would not change the "policy" of the Orthodox Churches with regard to the date of Pascha, the WCC acknowledged, in its statement about the Aleppo conference, that "Churches in the East will be most effected [sic] by the new dating system." The statement even notes that the "'old calendar' has been a symbol of the [Orthodox] churches' desire to maintain their integrity and freedom from the hostile forces of this world. The consultation therefore concluded that there will be need of great pastoral sensitivity among the church members as the proposal is pursued." (One wonders, quite naturally, whether this sensitivity to the calendar issue will continue to entail, as it has in the past, a characterization of us "Old Calendarists" as "rubbish in the street," "illiterates, "peasant ecclesiastical figures," and "a wretched minority" existing "outside the Church" by Orthodox ecumenists, or whether simple violence and persecution, again as in the past, will be the "sensitivity tools" of the day.)

No reasonable person could possibly consider the nonsense coming forth from Aleppo, let alone the bizarre report about the conference issued by the WCC last March (adorned, as it is, with the imbecilic rhetoric and strange syntax of "ecumeni-talk"), consistent with the traditional pronouncements of the Orthodox Church regarding the date of the Paschal Feast. The proposals made by this conference are an insult to the Orthodox people; derive from a simple-minded approach to a complex issue; rely on pseudo-scientific formulae (as though science dictated our spiritual beliefs and customs, anyway); base themselves on a deceptive misrepresentation of the provisions of the Council of Nicaea concerning the date of Pascha; and, to quote a British Orthodox journal, "The Shepherd" (Vol. XVII, No. 8, p. 20), succeed in "pulling the wool over our eyes" in the name of condescending notions of pastoral sensitivity.

Setting aside dogma, doctrine, and matters of Faith, this move towards a common Pascha is a simple attempt to achieve a superficial "cosmetic" unity among Christians. All of this is in the spirit of the late and lamentable Patriarch Athenagoras, who opened the door to a new approach to Orthodoxy—one foreign to the Church Fathers and Holy Tradition—, dispensing with the study of God and things spiritual (theology) for what is the hypocrisy of ecumenical humanism ("love"):

"There are two paths [to Christian unity—Ed.]: theological dialogue and another. On both sides we have theologians who are studying the subject of our return to the old state of affairs. And because I do not set many hopes on theological dialogue..., I prefer the dialogue of love....A great spirit of love is spreading abroad over the Christians of the East and West."

We Orthodox anti-ecumenists have come, once more, to understand just what "spirit" Patriarch Athenagoras saw spreading throughout Christianity and just what the love which he preached involves. The spirit and love of ecumenism have divided the Orthodox Church, have silenced the majority of the People of God, who, outside the tiny minority of vocal Orthodox in America, are opposed to ecumenism, and have created in the guise of Orthodoxy a religion which aims at accommodation to the world and its priorities—a religion foreign to the other-worldly Faith of the Fathers, which calls us from this world of darkness to the higher life of light.

From Orthodox Tradition, January 1998.

Canons On the Date for Celebrating Pascha

Canon VII of the Holy Apostles

If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon celebrate the holy day of Easter before the vernal equinox with the Jews, let him be deposed.

Canon I of Antioch

As for all persons who dare to violate the definition of the holy and great Synod convened in Nicaea in the presence of Eusebeia, the consort of the most God-beloved Emperor Constantine, concerning the holy festival of the soterial Pascha, we decree that they be excluded from Communion and be outcasts from the Church if they persist more captiously in objecting to the decisions that have been made as most fitting in regard thereto; and let these things be said with reference to laymen. But if any of the person occupying prominent positions in the Church, such as a Bishop, or a Presbyter, or a Deacon, after the adoption of this definition, should dare to insist upon having his own way, to the perversion of the laity, and to the disturbance of the church, and upon celebrating Pascha along with the Jews, the holy Synod has hence judged that person to be an alien to the Church, on the ground that he has not only become guilty of sin by himself, but has also been the cause of corruption and perversion among the multitude. Accordingly, it not only deposes such persons from the liturgy, but also those who dare to commune with them after their deposition. Moreover, those who have been deposed are to be deprived of the external honor too of which the holy Canon and God's priesthood have partaken.