The Patristic Church Calendar
An Indissoluble Element of Universal Church Tradition
by Bishop Photii of Triaditza
"Keep Thy Church in Orthodoxy, O Christ, and our lives in peace."
(Fifth Resurrectional stichera on
"Lord, I have cried," Tone 1)
Godloving Orthodox Christians,
You are opening the first Calendar of the True (Old Calendar) Orthodox Church of Bulgariaa
canonical community uniting those members of the Bulgarian Church who, without brandishing
blatant politicoecclesial slogans, labor zealously in word and in deed, to the full
extent of their powers, to preserve the Apostolic and Patristic purity of Holy Orthodoxy.
This first Calendar of the Old Calendar Orthodox
Church of Bulgaria is dedicated to that evermemorable Hierarch, patriot, and zealot
of our Holy Orthodox Faith, Metropolitan Clement of Turnovo (Vassil Drumev,
18411901). In 199394, a hundred years will have passed since the brutal
mistreatment of this honorable Hierarch before a court which unjustly banished him to the
Two other anniversaries occurred shortly before the
publication of this Calendar. In 1993, we saw the passing of seventy years since
the socalled "PanOrthodox" Council in Tzarigrad, which decided,
albeit in an uncanonical manner, to reform the Church Calendar; 1993 also marked the
twentyfifth anniversary of the calendar reform in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
The tragic decision of the "PanOrthodox"
Congress of 1923 to replace the Church Julian Calendar with the socalled New
Julian Calendarwhich, by the end of 2800 and after 2900 will coincide fully with the
Gregorian Calendarwas gradually accepted by the administrative authorities of a
number of local Churches, among which, sad to say, was also the Bulgarian Church. The
calendar reform is not a small, insignificant change, as those who advocate it would have
us believe. It is one step on a slippery path that leads to a broader religious and
ecclesiastical reform in the spirit of the panheretical rapprochement of ecumenism,
which is virtually a "transformation of all things into impiety" (Saint Theodore
the Studite). In the name of rapprochement with Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and
Protestants, the advocates of the calendar reform have rent asunder the ageold
liturgical unity of the Holy Orthodox Church.
In those local Churches which have adopted the New
Calendar in establishing the Festal Menaion, Sacred Feasts and the memory of Saints
are celebrated thirteen days earlier than the corresponding events according to the Julian
Calendar. From the sixth century on, when the Church once and for all established a
uniform Festal Calendar and Paschalion, there has never existed the divergence in time
for the celebration of one and the same Feast that we see today. This present
divergence is quite obvious on the days of the Greater Feasts: the Nativity of Christ,
Theophany, or the Dormition of the Theotokos. Some Orthodox fast while others
feast; for example, the New Calendarists celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos on
what is the second day of the Fast preceding this great Feast on the Church Calendar.
Not to mention the tragic case of the local Church of Finland, which celebrates
even Pascha according to the Gregorian Calendarseparate from all other Orthodox and
together with the Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants. This improper divergence in
the times at which Church Feasts are celebrated raises the question: "Who
celebrateswe or the Church?" If the answer is, "We," then we lessen
and obliterate the sacred nature of the Churchs Feasts, subordinating them to
incidental considerations and personal preferences. If we answer, "The
Church," then, only a uniform time of celebration is possible, since the Church is
Why is this uniformity in the time of the celebration of
Feasts dependent on the Julian Calendar, and why is it that precisely this calendar is
considered a Church Calendar, in the proper meaning of the word?
It is because the Julian Calendar is vitally linked
to the Alexandrian Paschalion of the ancient Church, to a common system of
calculating time known among the Byzantines and the Slavs as the "Great
Indiction" and in the West as the "Great Cycle." It is precisely this
system of calculating time that has determined for over a thousand years (that is,
until the Gregorian Calendar reform of 1582) the liturgical calendar of all Christian
peoples. Only the system of the Great Indiction and the traditional Orthodox
Paschalion conform to the requirements of the Seventh Apostolic Canon and the dicta set
forth by the First cumenical Synod, which are confirmed in the First Canon of the
Council of Antioch. These rules explicitly forbid the celebration of the Christian
Pascha on the same day as the Jewish Passover. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and
Protestants, as well as the Orthodox (?!) Church of Finland, have adopted the Gregorian Paschalion,
according to which the Pascha of Christ (Easter) occasionally falls on the same day
as the Jewish Passover, if not often even before it (which is in discord with the
order of the events in the last week of Jesus Christs earthly life as we find it set
out in the Gospels). It is not by accident that the New Calendarists (with the exception
of the Church of Finland) have adopted the New Calendar only for the festal cycle for
permanent Feasts (that is, those Feasts fixed to a definite calendar date). For they still
calculate the movable Feasts (those dependent on the date of Pascha) by the Julian Church
Calendar. By so doing, they paste together, in a most artificial manner, the Church and
New Julian (Gregorian) Calendars, using both at the same time and thus adding even greater
confusion into the Churchs liturgical life.
Advocates of the New Calendar tenaciously argue that the
Gregorian Calendar is more chronologically precise when compared to the Julian. For its
part, however, the Julian Calendar has indisputable mathematical advantages over the
Gregorianit is not by chance, for example, that it is still used in many
chronological and astronomical calculations.
Chronological accuracy in and of itself, however, cannot
be an absolute standard, as far as the Church Calendar is concerned. Otherwise, the Church
would fall to permanent dependence on the progress of astronomical science, which would in
turn inevitably lead to a common date for Pascha and the Jewish Passover, in violation of
the Canons, that is, to a disruption of the common mind established by the Church Synods
and Councils and of the Tradition of the Fathers. "Time is a mystery," a certain
Orthodox monk once said, "and a mystery can be approached only through a symbol.
"The Julian Calendar is an Icon of time. If we want
to make the notion of time material, as the Icon can be materialized by its
transformation into a portrait, why should we, in any case, turn tothe Gregorian
Calendar? There are far more precise calendars, such as the Calendar of the Incas or that
of Omar Khayyam, the mathematical specifications of which are brilliant, and an even more
precise calendar may appear in the future. However, we should not reach out in the
direction of the observatories. We, the Church, possess these mysteries of time, which
have been inscribed in the Bible and in the works of the Fathers. These mysteries have
been entrusted to us and we are obliged to reveal them to the world."
Let no man, therefore, imagine that we argue about times,
months, and days or suffer privations and persecutions for the sake of full moons and
equinoxes (cf. Colossians 2:16 ["Let no man therefore judge you
respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days"]). To us, the
Great Indiction, the Julian Calendar, and the Orthodox Paschalion are not one
system of measuring time among many others. They are the fruit of the collective genius
and work of a number of anonymous champions of science and the Faith, an integral part of
the precious heritage of our Universal Church Tradition, to which the Holy Orthodox Church
holds firm, proclaiming Her Good Tidings to the world!
Part III from The Road to Apostasy: Significant Essays on
Ecumenism (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1995).