The Julian Calendar

A Thousand Year Icon of Time in Russia and Throughout the Orthodox World

by Ludmila Perepiolkina


f old, man has bowed down before the mystery of time, trying to fathom it. Time seemed to him to be profoundly hostile, requiring bloody sacrifices (as with the Aztecs), or an arena for the struggle between chaos and the cosmos, or a magical dream (dream time) reverting to the dark past of totemic forebears.

Legends and myths carry to us the echoes of ancient notions of time. Man feared or deified time, imparting to it the most diverse forms: a ray, penetrating the darkness; an arrow, flying from the future to the past; chains of circumferences. Most often, time was conveyed as a number; sometimes, as with the Orphics and the Celts, it was represented by sound or music. Thus, the Celtic god, Dagda, called forth the various seasons of the year by his playing on a living harp-oak.[1] There is a poetic conception of time by which some attempt is made to resolve the dispute between time and eternity: "Death and time reign on the earth — call them not masters" (Vladimir Soloviev).

Time is reflected in metaphorical images in cosmogonic, anthropogenic and, etiological myths. Man surmised that something major was bound up with time: the beginning and the end; his memory and hope. The dream of explaining time and mastering it is reflected also in the modern fantastical "time machine," which would permit one to wander freely about this unfathomable kingdom.

From Chronos to Einstein’s theory, mankind has travelled a long path, never having been able fully to unriddle the essence of time. Being an object of philosophical and scientific reflections for centuries, time as a category remains indeterminate. True, one seemingly indubitable attribute — length — is ascribed to it; but it too turns out to be a fiction. Thus, the theory of relativity is based, as is well-known, on the concept of four-dimensional time-space, where the time axis is imaginary.

Can one speak of the time of the world’s creation, if the act of creation itself does not enter into the causation of phenomena? Transcendent by nature, it surpasses every human notion of space and time. In speaking the "beginning" of existence, man is forced to resort to the category of time, in order to remain within frames of thought customary for him.

Rational definitions of time amount to more or less disguised tautologies. After all, by saying that time is the order of phenomena in their sequence, time is defined by time.[2]

Time is possibly a road; but leading to where?[3] When we measure time, where does it come from before we are able to measure it? Which way does it take and where does it go when it leaves us? Blessed Augustine came close to the mystery of time: "In thee, my soul, do I measure the times." According to Blessed Augustine, the three stages of an action that occur in a man’s soul — expectation, contemplation, and, recollection (memory) — engender the "triplicity of time". However, our perceptive consciousness (soul) does not give birth to time itself; it owes its rise to the eternal Substance — the Creator: "Time itself is also Thy work."[4]

A millennium and a half ago, Blessed Augustine said in language clear and sublime what men in the twentieth century attempt to express by means of complex mathematical formulas. In regard to time, they amount to the fact that our perception, as well as the most recent version of ontology (the wave function of quantum mechanics), develops in time; but there is a subsequent layer (the source of "light") where this concept has no meaning.[5]

God is the reconciliation of antinomies. Love overcomes time, and is not why the Lord also says through the Apostle John, concerning the life to which He calls us: that there should be time no longer (Revelation 10:6)?

So just what is time? "It seems that there is nothing clearer and more ordinary," says Blessed Augustine, "but meanwhile, in essence there is nothing more incomprehensible and hidden and more thought-provoking."[6]

Man, in contemplating nature and himself, has seen that dying gives way to life; and after that, the forces of life give place to disintegration and death. The saving of life was a miracle carried out in rituals. By rituals, the life of creation and man was harmonized. The natural rhythms of the universe have found reflections in ritual festivals. Ritual is bound up with rhythm, as it is also bound up with memory. From hence the calendar takes its beginning as the incarnation of the rhythm that unites macrocosm and microcosm.

The calendar is one of the expressions of time, and, moreover, is well-nigh the most important of them. The calendar is that which is defined by the concept of "the rhythmical memory of mankind."[7]

In marking the millennium of the Baptism of Russia, it is impossible to pass over in silence the question of the Julian Calendar, which also has a thousand-year history in Russia. Many ask the question: Why does the Russian Orthodox Church, all calendar reforms notwithstanding, continue to live according to the same calendar according to which ancient Russia and the whole medieval Christian West lived. Only a prejudiced attitude could cause some to view this as a phenomenon arising from traditional idealization of the past or, as some maintain, from backwardness, thereby avoiding a serious answer. We shall attempt to investigate the reasons for the astonishing vitality of the Julian Calendar in Russia.

As is well-known, this system of chronology came to Russia from Byzantium. The Church’s Julian Calendar represents the Byzantine synthesis of the calendrical-astronomical legacy of ancient Babylon and Egypt, in combination with the scholarship of the Alexandrian Church Fathers, which was implemented during the epoch of the holy Emperor
Constantine the Great, the Equal of the Apostles.

This system of calculating time, organically combining in itself the Julian Calendar and the Alexandrian Paschalia, was called the "Great Indiction" in Byzantium, the "Circulus Magnus" in the West, and  the "Cycle of Creation"[8] in Russia.

In speaking about the calendar it is necessary to emphasize that already from time immemorial the calendar was understood not simply as an instrument for measuring time, but as something that organizes time and defines the pulse of cosmic, historical, and, biological life. The ancients understood this; not for naught were priests, astronomers, astrologers, and mathematicians surrounded by universal veneration, right up to the Magi of the Gospel, who, being "taught by a star," came to worship the Divine Christ-Child. In reflecting the revelations of the sky, the calendar sanctified the life of peoples and gave a definite rhythm to their existence.

After the incarnation of God the Word, time for Christians became the time of salvation: it found a purpose. Time came into contact with the eschaton and was penetrated by it. The sanctification of time occurred. The sacred calendar of the Middle Ages subordinated not only to time itself, but also the whole structure of life. Beginning from the fourth century A.D., the whole liturgical life of the Church begins to be inseparably bound up with the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar. For more than a millennium, this universal calendar was the calendar of the whole western part of the known world (ecumene) and remains till now the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church.

It should be noted that the calendars known to us — the Julian and, from the end of the sixteenth century, the Gregorian — owe their existence to the calculations that determine the time of Pascha’s celebration. This circumstance is all the more significant because, in the modern secularized world, time is determined by scientific, socio-economic, political, and other factors, not having anything in common with the spiritual side of life.

In Christian chronology there is a center of time. This is the 14th, 15th and 16th of Nisan — dates that changed the world’s time. These three dates determine the whole Christian theology of time. "With the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ (14th of Nisan), Old Testament humanity died; while with His Resurrection (16th of Nisan), Christianity was born."[9]

The Orthodox Catholic Church’s time, being the time of expectation of the Resurrection, already from the first centuries of Christianity is concentrated around the main feast — Holy Pascha. Therefore, the history of the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar is inseparably bound up with the Paschalia.

Holy Pascha is historically linked to the Old Testament Passover, which was celebrated at the full moon of the month of Nisan (corresponding to our March), the first month of the ancient biblical lunar calendar. During His earthly life, our Saviour Jesus Christ lived by this calendar. At the full moon of the month of Nisan, the Lord, together with all of Old Testament Israel, came to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. Precisely at this time, He also was betrayed, judged, crucified, and resurrected.[10]

In the year of our Lord’s death on the Cross, the Jewish Passover fell on Friday and Saturday. The Saviour was crucified on Friday, the 14th of Nisan, which, by the Church calculation, [liturgically] begins now as well as back then on Thursday evening; on Saturday He was in the tomb, and early in the morning on the first day of the week — the 16th of Nisan — He resurrected. Therefore, the events of the Passion, death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ are inseparably bound up with the Jewish Passover. Already from the first century of Christianity, it became the custom to celebrate Holy Pascha after the Jewish Passover. This was perpetuate by the holy Apostles, who prescribed that the Christian Pascha be celebrated following the Jewish Passover, after the vernal equinox (Canon VII of the Holy Apostles).

Among the first Christians there still remained many who adhered to the Old Testament rites. Thus, the Churches of Asia Minor (their metropolis was Ephesus) celebrated Holy Pascha together with the Jews on the 14th of Nisan, which would fall each year on a different day of the week. However, other local Churches — Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, Caesarea, and Jerusalem — celebrated Pascha on the first Sunday which followed the 14th of Nisan, preserving the New Testament’s sequence of sacred events.

In connection with the problem of all Christians celebrating Holy Pascha at the same time, controversies arose, which became especially acute at the end of the second century, under the Roman bishop, Victor. Bishop Victor considered it impermissible to celebrate Pascha according to the reckoning of the Churches of Asia Minor and demanded a cessation of communion with them. Fortunately, the wise admonition of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons prevented a breach between the Churches. Only a small group, consisting of adherents of the Asia Minor rite, formed the sect of the "Fourteeners" or Quartodecimans. From 325 A.D., all Christians of the Orthodox Catholic Church began to celebrate Pascha only on Sunday, although not yet always at the same time.

Because of the Arian heresy, and likewise for the resolution of  the "Paschal controversies," the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) was convoked. The text of this Council’s acts has not been preserved; however, on the basis of certain documents that have come down to us, it is possible to judge concerning the decisions taken by it in regard to the celebration of Pascha.[11] Among them, one can name: The epistle of the Nicean Council to the Alexandrian Church; the epistle of Saint Constantine the Great, the Equal of the Apostles, to the bishops not present at the Council; and several lines from the works of Saint Athanasius the Great, who himself was a participant in the first Ecumenical Council. In his epistle to the African bishops (Chapter 2), he writes: "The Nicean Council was convoked concerning Pascha, since Christians in Syria, Cilicia and Mesopotamia were not in accord with us, and at the moment at which the Jews celebrated Passover, they also celebrated it. That was the reason for the convocation of the Nicean Council" (Migne, Patrologia Graeca, v. 26, col. 10). The decree of the Nicean Council concerning Pascha is contained likewise in the testimonies of the Holy Fathers (participants in the Council or close to it in time), in Eusebius of Caesarea, a contemporary and eyewitness of the Council, and in the decisions of the Local Council of Antioch (341 A.D.). This is why assertions by the supporters of the reformed Paschalia, that supposedly the decree of the first Ecumenical Council in regard to the celebration of Pascha has been irretrievably lost, are tendentious and historically incorrect.

The 318 Holy Fathers of the Nicean Council formulated a decree (horos) concerning Pascha, which forbade its celebration together with the Jews, which a clear citation of Canon I of the Council of Antioch indicates: "Let all who dare to violate the decree of the holy and great Council that was in Nicea. . . concerning the holy feast of saving Pascha be excluded from Communion (excommunicated) and cast out of the Church, if they continue in a contention-loving manner to rise up against this good enactment. This is said about laymen. But if, after this decree, one of those who preside in the Church, a bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, should dare to exercise his own judgement and celebrate Pascha with the Jews, subverting the people and to disturbing the Churches, the Holy Council henceforth already condemns such a one to be foreign to the Church, as having become not only the cause of sin for himself, but also the cause of disorder and of the perversion of many. The Council deposes from the sacred ministry not only these persons, but also all who dare to be in communion with them after their expulsion from the priesthood. Those expelled are to be deprived also of the external honor of which they were partakers according to the holy canon and God’s priesthood."[12]

It is well known that the enactment of the Nicean Council relative to Holy Pascha does not figure among the twenty canons of this Council that have come down to us. However, the enactment does not figure among the canons precisely because it is not a canon, but a document of more important significance: it is a decree (horos)."[13]

In his epistle to the bishops who had not been present at the Council, Constantine the Great says that, "according to common opinion, it was recognized as best to celebrate" the day of Holy Pascha "by all and everywhere on the same day, inasmuch as in a matter so important... it is very unseemly to show disagreement. The Saviour has left us one day [for the commemoration] of our deliverance. Let the sagacity of your Holiness reflect on how illaudable and indecent it is that on the selfsame days some should be fasting, while others are celebrating feasts…"[14]

The compilation of the Paschalia was entrusted to the Alexandrian Church, the most learned Church of antiquity. The problem that confronted the paschalian scholars was exceptionally difficult. Its complexity lay in the fact that in compiling the calendar they had to take into account requirements of a liturgical and historical nature. The Holy Fathers solved this problem brilliantly.

Making use of the "alloy of the calendrical-astronomical legacy of the Egyptian and Babylonian cultures that was polished by the school of the renowned Greek astronomers (from Meton to Hipparchus),"[15] they created a masterpiece of calendrical work — the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar, about which the well-known Russian astronomer, E. A. Predtechensky, said that, "it was so executed, that till now it remains unsurpassed. The later Roman Paschalia accepted now by the Western Church is, in comparison with the Alexandrian, ponderous and clumsy to such a degree, that it reminds one of a cheap print alongside an artistic depiction of the same subject. Moreover, this terribly complex and clumsy mechanism does not even achieve purpose it was intended for."[16]

Let us look at what the statement cited above is based on. Along with this, let us try to be free of preconceptions once and for all; in the given instance, let us try to look critically at the Gregorian Calendar which is accepted by all modern countries.

Knowing that only weighty arguments are capable of withstanding a preconceived opinion, let us dwell on an analysis of the tasks (astronomical, first of all) that confronted the Christian computists, the creators of the universal ecclesiastical Julian Calendar.

As the basis of the Paschalia its compilers took the Julian Calendar, which was so named in honor of Julius Caesar, who, with the help of the well-known astronomer Sosigenes, introduced the new chronology in the year 46 B.C. The great merit of this calendar lies in the fact that it possess a rhythmic alternation of three simple years (of 365 days each) with one leap year containing 366 days. Besides this invariable and so valuable rhythm (rhythm is the basis of any calendar), the Julian Calendar has one particularity: in it, every 28 years the days of the week fall on the same dates of the months (which is important for the Paschalia). This calendar of Julius Caesar, which is oriented on the sun, was in use for a comparatively short time: from 46 B.C. until the Nicean Council. After the reforms undertaken by the paschalians (there will be a discussion of them below), the calendar of Julius Caesar turned into the same ecclesiastical Julian Calendar, that the whole Christian world used until the Gregorian reform, and by which till now the liturgical life of the Russian Orthodox Church is determined.

The paschalian scholars at Nicea were familiar with the so-called "Golden Rule" of chronology of the ancient Greek astronomer Meton, permitting a precise alignment of the lunar and solar calendars. In 433 B.C., Meton calculated that nineteen solar years (that is, 6939.75 days) would be equal to nineteen lunar years containing 6940 days, if in the course of nineteen lunar years a supplemental (embolismic) lunar month is inserted seven times. Astronomers know that the movement of the moon is somewhat complex and the computations of its phases, embracing prolonged periods, require great knowledge in the realm of astronomy and experience based on observations over many centuries. The nineteen-year lunar cycle, known under the name, "Metonic Cycle", is considered a masterpiece of world astronomy. It is of great value for the Paschalia, inasmuch as the phases of the moon throughout each nineteen- year [cycle] fall on the self-same days of the solar Julian Calendar.[17]

In the compilation of the Paschalia, the nineteen-year lunar cycle was taken into account. Moreover, the so-called "Correction of Callippus", which brought the duration of the solar year and the lunar month nearer to their true astronomical value, was introduced into the Metono-Sosigenic cycle. The reform that was accepted satisfied immediately the requirements of both reckonings: the lunar and the solar.[18]

The compilers of the Orthodox Paschalia likewise had to correlate the lunar rhythm with the week (the seven-day week), in order to preserve the sequence of the New Testament events bound up with the final days of Jesus Christ’s earthly life, taking into account Holy Pascha’s connection with the Old Testament Passover. In his brilliant work dedicated to the question of the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar, A. N. Zelinsky says in this regard: "One can say without exaggeration that in its complexity, the task that confronted the Nicean paschalians exceeded by far the difficulties bound up with the Julian reform or the ‘Correction of Callippus’."[19]

In working out the principles of a Paschalia independent of Jewish practice, Orthodox computists sought a divergence between the Metono-Sosigenic cycle and the moon, and consequently, with the Hebrew calendar. This divergence was achieved due to the fact that at the beginning of a Callippic Cycle, the epact (the excess of the solar over the lunar year, about 11 days; the age of the moon at the beginning of a calendar year) has not been reduced over each 304 years. Nevertheless, by virtue of astronomical reasons, coincidences of Holy Pascha with the Jewish Passover sometimes still happened until the year 592. As for the very rare coincidences of the Christian Pascha with the Jewish Passover which took place until the year 783, this is explained by the fact that the Jews transfer their Passover, if it falls on Monday, Wednesday or Friday. This circumstance also caused the indicated coincidences.[20]

However, beginning with the year 592, "such coincidences already became not only astronomically, but even according to the Paschal calendar aspects impossible."[21] Holy Pascha became a moveable feast. All of the requirements set forth for its celebration were observed with exactness.

It is exceptionally important to note that there are no exact instructions whatsoever relative to the calendrical system or technical rules for determining the time of Pascha’s celebration in these enactments of the Holy Fathers. Prof. V. V. Bolotov demonstrated clearly and convincingly that "the Nicean Council had no need to issue any enactments of a purely technical nature: ‘the Eastern brethren’ themselves also knew how to avoid celebrating Pascha together with the Jews."[22]

Prof. Priest D. A. Lebedev also shares the opinion of this eminent scholar: "The Council did not deliberate the question of the day of Pasha in detail. The enactment usually ascribed to it to celebrate Pascha on the Sunday after the first vernal full moon is only a later formulation of the principle of the Alexandrian Paschalia: Pascha on the first Sunday after
the 14th day of the moon, which falls no earlier than the day of the vernal equinox, the 21st of March (consequently, on days 15—21 of the moon)."[23] A. I. Georgievsky, a lecturer at the Moscow Theological Academy, also draws attention to this in his article "On the Ecclesiastical Calendar."[24] Professor Protopriest Liverij Voronov, of the Leningrad Theological
Academy, likewise notes this circumstance in his work "The Calendar Problem."[25]

The Nicean Council "did not decree the uniform practice for determining the time of Pascha’s celebration."[26] This circumstance has an enormous significance for the scientific controversy with those who fight for the "correction" of the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar, citing the fact that, supposedly, the main determining factor of the Paschalia is the vernal equinox and, without fail, the "first full moon" after it. The supporters of the "principle of the equinox", who lean mainly upon the "Sermon of Anatolius", a little known anonymous Greek document of the fourth century, should take into account that in the Alexandrian Paschalian tables that were subsequently accepted by the whole Church, the vernal equinox is not a self-sufficient value, as the adherents of the Gregorian Calendar attempt to demonstrate, but only a secondary, derivative value that serves as a limit in determining the month of Abib (Nisan), and together with it the onset of the new Paschal year.

As is well-known, the Old Testament Passover was Israel’s yearly remembrance of its deliverance from Egyptian bondage. From the time of Moses this feast fell on the day from the 14th to the 15th of the first lunar month in the year, Nisan (or Abib), by the ancient Hebrew calendar, that is, on the day of the vernal full moon. However, one must remember that "the month Abib is not a value that is definite and that has its own fixed days in the year, like our March."[27] In Holy Scripture, Abib is defined as "the month of ears" (Exodus 13:4)*, when, according to Leviticus 23:10—16 and Deuteronomy 16:9, each Hebrew had to offer unto the Lord the first sheaf reaped — "the sheaf of offering" — on the second day of Passover, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Prof. Bolotov’s determination of the Old Testament Passover’s celebration merit attention: "During the existence of the Temple and the sacrifices, it was impossible to recognize as the Passover month, that is, as Nisan, that month by whose full moon barley could not ripen in the environs of Jerusalem."[28]

Consequently, the sign of the Passover month of Abib, the "month of the new," according to Holy Scripture, is the ripening of new fruits, and inasmuch as the earliest grain in Palestine, by observation, does not ripen before the equinox, it is not possible to celebrate Passover before the vernal equinox. As for the opinion that it is necessary to celebrate Pascha immediately after the equinox, Prof. Bolotov, citing the Paschalia’s formula, concludes that this is "the cornerstone of the Gregorian reform, whereon it stands or falls."[29] In addition to this, there are no words for "equinox" and "spring" in the ancient Hebrew language. The geographical situation of Palestine is such that there are only two seasons in the year: summer and winter. "Thus," writes Prof. Bolotov in his renowned report, "the nature of Palestine itself gives its own impartial testimony that the Gregorian reform of the Paschalia is only a crude mistake, of not thinking things out."[30]

Whether we like it or not, discussions of the ecclesiastical Juliar Calendar invariably lead to polemics with the supporters of the Gregorian Calendar. Inasmuch as the calendar question, besides being of scientific interest, is even more of practical, very immediate interest that is closely bound up with the life of the Church and, in particular, the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest in the Orthodox world, let us look at the basic features of this problem.

As was already indicated above, the raison d’être for the creation of the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar is bound up with the feast of the Lord’s Resurrection — Holy Pascha. The whole task that confronted the Holy Fathers consisted in designating this day just "as they designated it in the days of Jesus Christ, and not to fall into those ‘errors’ which were characteristic of Jewish practice in the third and fourth centuries."[31]

Our Lord Jesus Christ celebrated the Mystical Supper with His disciples in strict adherence to Jewish tradition. However, Christ’s final Old Testament Passover, as distinct from all that preceded it, was celebrated not with unleavened, but with leavened bread, inasmuch as unleavened bread was permitted by the Law only after midday on the 14th of Nisan. At that hour Our Lord was on the Cross "in the midst of the earth working the salvation of all who with hope call upon His holy name."

Both the Mystical Supper and Christ’s Crucifixion occurred  on the 14th of Nisan, on Friday, according to the Jewish reckoning of the day. However, by the Roman Julian Calendar, by which the day begins at midnight, Christ’s Mystical Supper falls on Thursday, and the Crucifixion on Friday. Christianity, having accepted the Julian Calendar of the Romans, made Great Thursday the day of the Mystical Supper’s remembrance and Great Friday the day of the commemoration of the holy and saving Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ,[32] which corresponds to the tradition of the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, and Luke].

The Pascha of the Lord’s Passion coincided with the Old Testament Passover; but the Pascha that laid low the might of death, the Pascha of the Resurrection, was accomplished on the third day after the crucifixion — on the 16th of Nisan. The sequence of these events, which are unique in world history, cannot be altered. This is a canonical question of very great importance. The tradition of strictly observing the sacred New Testament events by the Russian Orthodox Church testifies of her love for Christ and faithfulness to Holy Tradition and the injunctions of the Holy Fathers.

The Christian celebration of Holy Pascha, in succeeding the Old Testament enactments, was modified in conformity with the events of the New Testament and the conciliar decrees. However, having preserved an historical tie with the Passover of the Old Testament, the feast of the Resurrection became totally independent of it.

In the course of a long period, more than a millennium, Christians, by using one calendar, were one in regard to the celebration of Pascha. This supported the unity of the original Church’s structure, even after the year 1054. "The Gregorian reform of the Calendar in the year 1582 for the first time violated Christian unity relative to the calendar and, in consequence of this, Paschal unity."[33]

In this connection, we shall quote the words of Saint John Chrysostom: "Exactness in observing times is not as important as is the offense of division and schism."[34]

Here it needs to be pointed out that the day of the vernal equinox shifts by one day every 128 years and the phases of the moon by one day every 310 years. This occurs as a result of the calendrical procession, which was well-known to the compilers of the Paschalia. However, because of the impossibility of uniting the movements of the moon and the sun in a calendrical-astronomical scheme, any calendar is doomed to greater or lesser inaccuracy. Most likely, no astronomer is able to create an absolutely accurate calendar. Astronomers themselves also confirm this, with each proposing his own style, distinct from the others. The disparity in their solutions, as well as their contradictions, sow doubts as to the correctness of their chronology?[35] It is equally impossible to fix something in a calendar for ever; or else a similar attempt would be reminiscent of a project to fix the hands of a running watch in one place.

Here we are approaching the moment bound up precisely with such an attempt to retain the point of the vernal equinox for "time eternal" on the 21st of March (in the year of the Nicean Council it fell on the 21 March). The Gregorian reform was undertaken in the year 1582 also with the aim of fixing the vernal equinox. Pope Gregory XIII issued the Bull, "Inter gravissimas", which proclaims: "It was our concern not only to restore the equinox to the place appointed for it of old, from which it has deviated by approximately ten days from the time of the Nicean Council, and to return the 14th day of the moon to its place, from which it diverges at the present time by four or five days, but also to enact a method and rules whereby in the future the equinox and the 14th day of the moon would never move from their places" (italics mine, L. P.).[36]

However, it is well-known to everyone that the sun and moon are in constant motion, and, therefore, it is impossible to find any "methods and rules" capable of fixing the equinox and "the 14th day of the moon" for ever.

We already know that the ancient, main requirement for a calendar is the maintenance of rhythm. The cyclic and flawless rhythm of the Julian Calendar were examined above. The merit of this calendar constitutes the main deficiency of the Gregorian. As for its abstract accuracy, it "was achieved at too dear a price."[37] first, by making leap centuries common centuries the number of days in each century is no longer identical. In the Julian calendar, all century years are leap years, while in the Gregorian, only each fourth [century year]; "but if the leap year creates rhythm, then a century deprived of a leap year violates it."[38] Second, in Gregorian centuries, segments of time falling at the same time in leap and ordinary centuries are not equal to corresponding segments of time found in neighboring non-leap centuries. Third, the essence of a calendar is violated by the Gregorian: the presence of a minimal period, containing a whole number of days. If in the Julian calendar this period equals four years or 1,461 days, in the Gregorian it constitutes 400 years, that is, 146,097 days.

Besides this, the half-years, quarters, and months of the Gregorian Calendar contain an unequal number of days; the days of the week do not agree with the dates of the months, both in different years and throughout one and the same year. Due to the presence in the majority of Gregorian months of the so-called "split" weeks, the alternation of the latter occurs independently of the duration of the months.

In addition to this, those comparing both calendars "often forget that from a purely scientific point of view, the Gregorian Calendar does not have any advantages over the Julian Calendar simply because the two calendars are different in their principles. The Gregorian Calendar is oriented on the value of the tropical or solar year, and the Julian on the value of the sidereal or stellar year. In view of the irregularity of the earth’s orbit about the sun, the tropical year (as distinct from the sidereal) does not have a strictly constant value. Its particularity, to which we are accustomed, is that it is the "natural year", that is, the period of the sun’s return to the equinox or solstice, as to processes really experienced on the earth, whereas the stellar year is the period of the sun’s return to one and the same fixed star. In this sense, the Gregorian Calendar is geocentric, while the Julian is cosmocentric in its basis."[39]

It is well-known that in comparison with the Julian year, the average duration of the Gregorian is closer to the value of the tropical year (the Julian year slightly exceeds it by 11 minutes, 14 seconds). However, the Gregorian Calendar is also inaccurate in relation to the value of the tropical year. The error present in it will increase with time, so that "after 25,765 tropical years it will fall behind the sidereal or true year by a whole year. This is why all astronomical, and even historical-chronological research bound up with great periods of time is conducted according to the Julian and not the Gregorian Calendar."[40] These scientific arguments deserve to be taken into consideration by the supporters of the Gregorian Calendar, who love to emphasize its astronomical accuracy.

As for chronological research, the Gregorian Calendar, according to the words of Prof. V. V. Bolotov, represents a "veritable torture for chronologists."

In this connection, it is interesting to note the activity of the renowned chronologist, Joseph Scaliger, a contemporary of Pope Gregory XIII. In his tract, "A New Work on Improving the Reckoning of Time," he demonstrates that only the Julian calendrical-chronological system is capable providing an uninterrupted reckoning in world chronology.[41]

One can sequentially and uninterruptedly keep count of the days in Scaliger’s Cycle of Creation (the Nicean Paschalia is its prototype) from a conventional starting date. Thanks to this unique quality, as well as to its other merits, the Julian chronology in Scaliger’s redaction forms the basis of all astronomical and chronological computations. Therefore, "it remains a paradoxical fact that the very period, without which the astronomy and chronology of our days cannot manage, was recognized by Pope Gregory XIII as useless for the calendar."[42] In historical and chronological research, one has to carry out calculations first according to the Julian Calendar and then translate them into Gregorian dates. All of this shows groundlessness of the steps undertaken by Rome. The reform of 1582 has proved to be, in essence, futile both from the scientific point of view and also in regard to the aim set by the Gregorians. After all, in the Gregorian Calendar, the date of the vernal equinox, although more slowly than the Julian, is promptly moving away from the true astronomical significance, while the astronomical Paschal full moon is departing from the equinox one day forward each 210 years.[43]

Rome’s attempt to make Pascha an exclusively spring festival lacks any foundation, since Christianity, being a universal religion, celebrates Christ’s Resurrection in both hemispheres at different seasons of the year. If the day of Holy Pascha in the northern hemisphere falls in the spring, then in the southern it occurs in the fall. Holy Pascha cannot fall in the spring either astronomically or meteorologically in both of the earth’s hemispheres at the same time. It is a spring feast according to the spirit, and not according to the letter.

As for the Julian Calendar, which interests us, its simplicity, vitality and practicality lie in the fact that the days here return to the same dates after 28 years, and the new moons and full moons — after 19 years. The Paschal cycle, or Great Indiction, contains 532 years. It is constructed by means of combining the 19-year "cycle of the moon" with the 28-year "cycle of the sun." The number 532 is the result of multiplying the two values: 19 and 28. In such a manner, the Paschal cycle consists of twenty- eight 19-year "cycles of the moon" or of nineteen 28-year "cycles of the sun." This system produces a unique mathematical rhythm. After a Great Indiction elapses, the phases of the moon and the days of the week return to the same dates. Thus, the fifteenth Indiction has been in progress since the year 1941; consequently, Pascha in the year 1941 was celebrated on the same date as in the year 1409 (that is, 532 years back), while in the year 1988, on the same day as in the year 1456, and so forth. This inner cyclicity, which has been placed in the nature of the Julian Calendar itself, gives bases for examining it (as distinct from the Gregorian Calendar) as a truly perpetual calendar.’[44] It is difficult to overestimate the mathematical and other merits of this system.

The Holy Fathers of the first Ecumenical Council, having taking into consideration all astronomical and mathematical computations, did not, however, make the astronomical accuracy of the calculations absolute. All of the inaccuracies for which the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar is reproached "are too obvious in order not to assume that they were intentionally allowed — for the simplification of the Paschalia."[45] Besides this, the compilers of the Paschalia knew that accuracy in itself is a thing somewhat conditional, inasmuch as the initial values themselves are accepted by men conditionally. Both the procession of the equinox and the advance of the moon’s true phases were well-known to them. Having accepted the 21st of March as the boundary for the celebration of Pascha, they knew that the equinox is moveable. According to the enactments accepted by the Holy Church, Pascha is celebrated within the bounds of the 22nd of March through the 25th of April inclusive (according to the Julian Calendar). The day of Holy Pascha moves away from the moment of the full moon by several days in connection with the fact that it is celebrated without fail on Sunday.

Being, on the one hand, somewhat dependent upon the data of astronomy, the Orthodox Paschalia, on the other hand, does not adhere to absolute astronomical accuracy (which is impossible in practice). None the less, this complete system, which served for more than a millennium and a half as the sacred liturgical calendar for all Christian peoples, is a model of beauty and wisdom. The fruit of the labors of divinely inspired creators, the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar unites in itself the conditional with the unconditional, the absolute with the relative.

Taking into consideration that many details of the Orthodox Paschalia bear a purely symbolical and conditional character, one should not be troubled by the fact that in our time the astronomical moment of the vernal equinox has passed outside the borders of Pascha according to the Alexandrian cycle. According to the traditionally accepted equinox of March 21st, the celebration of Orthodox (but not Gregorian) Pascha is held precisely after the "first full moon." The day of the "Paschal ecclesiastical full moon" of March 21st, accepted in the Alexandrian Paschalia as the true 14th of Nisan, "always precedes the Lord’s Pascha, which comes on the true 15th of Nisan; that is, it meets the requirements of Zonaras, Balsamon, and the second canon of Blastaris."[46]

Therefore, the reproaches against the Orthodox Paschalia for "backwardness" with respect to science are the fruit of misunderstanding and prejudice, as well as ignorance of the whole aggregate of problems bound up with the most complex question of the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar. Prof. V. V. Bolotov has convincingly shown that from astronomy in its "own element, paschal scholars cannot receive truly valuable directions. Only meteorology can give such directions, but only when it achieves a degree of development, which can now be discerned in outline only in the very distant future," that solves such problems as: In year N, barley will ripen in the environs of Jerusalem at such a time, while in N plus 100 years it will ripen at such a time.[47] "With the present state of science," says Bolotov, "one can regard the Orthodox Alexandrian Paschalia as a highly perfect work, undoubtedly surpassing the Gregorian Paschalia, and quieta non movere [leave well enough alone]."

The desire of Pope Gregory XIII to rectify what seemed to him to be a violation of the Church canons in regard to the celebration of Pascha, turned into a violation of one of the basic canons of the Church. Thus, by celebrating Holy Pascha before the Jews or together with them, the followers of the Gregorian reform violated Apostolic Canon VII, the decrees of the Nicean Council and Canon I of the Local Council of Antioch.

To change the sequence of events about which the Gospel speaks to us is to distort them. Mystically the New Testament Pascha symbolizes the replacement of the Old Testament sacrificial offering of the lamb by the redeeming sacrifice of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ — the Lamb Who takes upon Himself the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29). If, for purely astronomical reasons, the Christian Pascha in the early Church coincided with the Passover of the Synagogue, it is totally unacceptable that Holy Pascha would precede the Jewish Passover. "Even the Quartodecimans, who were condemned by the ancient Church for always celebrating Pascha together with the Jews (that is, on the 14th of Nisan), could not have imagined anything of the kind."[48] In the period from 1851 to 1950 alone, the followers of the Gregorian Calendar celebrated Pascha fifteen times before the Jews, and more than once together with them; for example, 1 April 1923, 17 April 1927, 18 April 1954 and 19 April 1981. Therefore, the decree of the Local Council of Constantinople in 1583, which declared the Gregorian Calendar to be uncanonical, remains in force. The Sigilion (encyclical epistle) of this council, signed by three Eastern Patriarchs — Jeremias of Constantinople, Silvester of Alexandria and Sophronius of Jerusalem — and by the rest of the hierarchs at the Council, proclaims: "Whosoever does not follow the customs of the Church and what the Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils have ordained concerning Holy Pascha and the Menologion [fixed Feasts] and have well enacted for us to follow, but desires to follow the Gregorian Paschalia and Menologion, he, as well as the godless astronomers, opposes all the decrees of the holy councils and wants to change and weaken them; let him be anathema and excommunicate from the Church of Christ and the assembly of the faithful."[49]

The Sigilion of the Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril V, issued in the year 1756 in connection with Rome’s attempts to change the Orthodox Calendar, likewise consigns the reformers to damnation and eternal excommunication. The historical documents adduced here show in an exhaustive manner the attitude of the Eastern Patriarchs toward the reform of the ecclesiastical calendar and express an unbending resolve to preserve the purity of the Orthodox faith.

As a result of the Gregorian calendrical reform, the Papacy became definitively separated from Orthodoxy. The needlessness of this reform as proven convinces us that separation from Orthodoxy was its main, although unstated, purpose. One must not think that the reform of the calendar did not encounter opponents. Both among contemporaries of Pope Gregory XIII and later there were not a few of them, and among them were great minds. The great Copernicus refused to take part in preparations for this reform, which had already begun in the year 1514 at the Lateran Council. Joseph Scaliger remained a decisive opponent of the calendar reform till the end of his life. However, the Papacy at that time represented a potent religious-political force which it was not always possible to resist. The Counter Reformation in Europe, headed by Rome, was, as is well-known, well-organized and harsh. Striving for power is always bound up with striving for power over time. History knows of many examples of the "seizure" of such power; from historical events closest to us one can name the French Revolution with its Thermidor.

Rome strongly encouraged a prejudicial attitude against the Julian Calendar. Only a few realize that, from a formal scientific point of view, the Gregorian Calendar does not have any advantages whatsoever over the Julian, inasmuch as both calendars differ in principle.

Roman Catholic countries almost immediately changed over to the New Style. However, the Protestant countries did not accept the Gregorian chronology for a long time, reckoning that "it is better to part from the sun than to join with Rome."[50] But toward the middle of the eighteenth century, the Gregorian Calendar penetrated into all the countries of Europe.

Rome, strengthening its primacy and its world-wide significance, went "against scientific evidence, against the tradition and canons of the Church. Our passions compel us to bend reason, logic, and knowledge. This, In all probability happens not only with individual men, but also with an entire society, people, and even an entire individual (local) Church and culture."[51] In consequence of the calendar reform in the western world, the center of spiritual and liturgical life began to shift gradually from Pascha to the Lord’s Nativity. Concerning what this Christian feast has turned into in the West, one hardly needs to comment. This "feast," which is for the most part one of commerce and entertainment, is blasphemous with regard to the sacred event of Christ’s Nativity. How strikingly the overflowing supermarkets and stores contrast with the empty or half-empty churches in the West during the days of Christmas![52]

The problem of chronology, caused by the Gregorian reform, remains unresolved even till this time. Already now for more than four centuries, dissension and disagreements do not cease in the Church in regard to the order of liturgical life. The acceptance of the "corrected Julian Calendar" by several of the Autocephalous [Orthodox] Churches has only aggravated Church disorders.

In 1923, at the Constantinopolitan Congress of Orthodox Churches convoked by Patriarch Meletius IV, the "corrected Julian Calendar" was approved. Three Eastern Patriarchs severely condemned this congress, which illegally called itself "Pan-Orthodox," and refused to take part in it. Not one plenipotentiary representative of the Russian Church, which accounts for three-fourths of the whole Orthodox world, was there. This congress, which introduced profound dissension into Orthodox unity, can be considered one of the saddest events of the Church’s life in the twentieth century.[53] Besides the abolition of the Julian Calendar, the other enactments of the Constantinopolitan Congress of 1923, such as permitting a second marriage for clergy, marriage after ordination, the call to abandon the moveable cycle of Church feasts and even the weekly arrangement of days, the proposal to abbreviate the divine services and other dubious innovations testify to its total canonical illegality. Many of them were rejected by the conscience of the Orthodox Catholic Church; however, the enactment on the new calendar, accepted by some of the Churches, violated their unity with the other Orthodox Churches and caused serious internal dissension in them, which continues even till now.[54]

The methods which Meletius IV (Metaxakis) used in introducing the New Style merit special attention. Thus, in his letter to Archbishop Seraphim of Finland, dated 10 July 1923, Meletius IV tells a manifest lie, by affirming that the New Style was accepted according to popular demand and a consensus of the Orthodox Churches. In such a manner, he led even the Most Holy Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, into error.[55]

However, in reply to the Constantinopolitan Patriarch’s grammata, dated 27 February 1924, concerning the introduction of the Neo-Julian Calendar into Church use, the Most Holy Patriarch Tikhon informed him that in the Russian Church it proved impossible to introduce the New Style in view of the people’s decisive opposition.[56]

Meletius IV was forced to go into retirement in connection with the extreme indignation of the Orthodox population of Constantinople; the Greeks destroyed the premises of his patriarchate and "subjected him to assault and battery."[57] This, however, did not eliminate the calendrical disturbance sowed by him. Having subsequently become the Patriarch of Alexandria, Metaxakis foisted the Neo-Julian Calendar on this Church also. This fact is all the more regrettable precisely because the Fathers of the Alexandrian Church were the creators of the Orthodox Paschalia and for many centuries zealously preserved it.

The Autocephalous Orthodox Churches of Greece, Alexandria, Antioch, Rumania and Bulgaria accepted the "corrected" Julian Style for the whole liturgical year, excepting only the period of the Lenten Triodion and the Pentecostarion, which are observed according to the Julian Calendar. However, under the Neo-Julian Calendar "the Alexandrian Paschalia cannot be used without artificial and dubious maneuvers."[58] Besides this, the Neo-Julian Calendar, instead of the 4-year Julian period, has a period of 900 years, which increases the period of the Paschalia from 532 years to 119,700 years, practically turning the "corrected" Paschalia into a non-cyclic Paschalia (this calendar of Milankovich coincides with the Gregorian Calendar until the year 2800).

In fact, this "corrected Julian Calendar" is itself in need of corrections, in particular, of a canonical nature. Artificially combined with the Alexandrian Paschalia, it brings disorders into liturgical life.

Thus, Kyrio-Pascha becomes impossible, the feast of the Annunciation cannot be in Passion Week, its celebration frequently does not correspond to the time determined by the Typicon. The first and Second finding of the Precious Head of the Forerunner is not infrequently displaced from the days indicated by the Typicon. Equally revealing is the example of the remembrance of the holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. The day dedicated to their memory, according to the Typicon (Chapter 48 with the Marcan Chapters), can occur from Tuesday of the first Week until Monday of the Sixth Week of Great Lent. The words of the service to the Holy Forty Martyrs also point this out: "O Passionbearers of Christ, ye have rendered the all-august Fast most splendid by the memorial of your glorious suffering; for being forty, ye sanctify the Forty Days" (Glory on the Praises); "The choir of forty fold radiance, the whole army assembled by God, hath shone forth together upon the Fast through honorable sufferings, sanctifying and enlightening our souls" (first sticheron on "Lord, I have cried").

Under the Neo-Julian Calendar, when the day of the memory of the Holy Forty Martyrs can, contrary to the Typicon, happen in Cheesefare Week or even in Meatfare Week, these words of prayer lose their meaning. Frequently the celebration of the day of the memory of the holy Great-martyr George is also violated by the New-Calendarists.

A greater deviation is the case of the Apostles’ or St. Peter’s Fast. The institution of this fast in the Church is already spoken of in the Apostolic Constitutions: "After Pentecost, celebrate one week, and then fast" (Book 5, Chapter 19). According to the ancient prescription, this fast begins on the Monday after the Sunday of All Saints, which is the next after Pentecost. Depending on the day of Holy Pascha’s celebration, its duration in different years is different: the most prolonged fast is six weeks, while the briefest is a week and one day.

A whole series of patristic testimonies speaks of the high respect which this fast has enjoyed among Christians.[59] References to it occur in Saints Athanasius the Great, Ambrose of Milan, and Theodoretus of Cyrus. Saint Leo the Great says that the Apostles’ Fast, which follows after the prolonged feast of Pentecost, is "especially necessary, so that by its struggle we would cleanse our thoughts and be made worthy of the gifts of the Holy Spirit" (Sermon 76). In another of his sermons (74), Saint Leo explains the meaning of this fast: "The teachers, who by their example and precepts have enlightened all the children of the Church, have marked the beginning of warfare for Christ with a holy fast, in order to have, when going out to the war against spiritual depravity, a weapon for this in abstinence, whereby one might mortify sinful desires. This custom ought to be kept diligently also in order that those gifts which are now communicated by God to the Church would remain in you."

In the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches that have accepted "the corrected Julian Calendar," the Apostles’ Fast is frequently abbreviated or completely disappears if it falls in Pentecost Week, when fasting is prohibited by the Typicon. In recent years, this took place in 1983 and 1986.

It is possible to keep the Jerusalem liturgical Rule (Typicon) — the invaluable fruit of the prayerful struggle of the greatest Orthodox ascetics — inviolable only under the Julian ecclesiastical Calendar and the Alexandrian Paschalia. As for the Neo-Julian Calendar, under its use over only the last twenty years (1969—1988), tens of deviations from the Typicon can be counted, which entails a departure from patristic tradition, a violation of unity in prayer between the Orthodox Churches, and in practical life signifies dissension and division among the people of the Church.

The acceptance of the Neo-Julian Calendar into the Church practice of some Autocephalous Churches, according to the words of Metropolitan Antony (Vadkovsky), "may in the future have undesirable and even pernicious consequences for the welfare of the Universal Church and may serve as a weapon in the hands of her enemies, who under the pretext, allegedly, of the interests of the Orthodox peoples, have for a long time been taking up arms against universal unity."[60] These words, spoken at the beginning of the twentieth century, have unfortunately, been justified.

The question of the ecclesiastical calendar belongs to a number of most important questions of ecclesiastical-religious significance that lead even to the separation of the Churches. "Let no one think that we are contending for the sake of times, months and days, and are enduring deprivation and persecution for the sake of full moons and equinoxes. We stand for the Holy Church; we are defending her from the powers of Hades that have risen up against her," writes Archbishop (subsequently Metropolitan) Innocent of Peking in his open letter.[61]

After the 1923 Constantinopolitan Pan-Orthodox Congress of sorry memory, the introduction of the New Calendar was often implemented with haste and persecution. The modern reformers of the ecclesiastical calendar arrogantly regard tradition and the decision of the 318 Holy Fathers of the first Ecumenical Council on Holy Pascha, which was confirmed by the Local Council of Antioch and all the subsequent Ecumenical Councils. However, one must not forget that the curses of the Eastern Patriarchs and hierarchs that were proclaimed in the years 1583 and 1756 lie heavy on the New-Calendarists. According to the expression of the encyclical epistle of 1848, signed by four Patriarchs, the New-Calendarists, who violate written and unwritten Tradition, "willingly put on a curse like a garment" (Psalm 108:17)**.[62]

The All-Russian Council of 1917—1918 decisively rejected the New Style and enacted that the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar be maintained for ecclesiastical reckoning.

Four councils of the archpastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, held in 1923, 1924, 1926 and 1931, took the decision to reject the New Style, in view of the fact that the curses of the Eastern Patriarchs laid on it in the years 1583 and 1756 lie heavy on it even till this time, "for they have not been taken away and have not been loosed by any council whatsoever."[63]

In our time of total secularization, it would be utopian to propose a return to the Julian Calendar for civil use. This would be, in the words of Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov), equivalent in effort to returning the whole contemporary Western world to the first Christian times. However, it is necessary to consciously oppose all encroachments on the Orthodox calendar. "And you, O Orthodox and pious Christians, abide in those things that you have learned, in what you were born and reared, and when necessity calls, shed even your very blood in order to preserve the patristic faith and confession; preserve yourselves and be attentive to these things, so that our Lord Jesus Christ would also help you."[64]

The Russian Orthodox Church (in Russia and abroad), the monasteries of the Holy Mountain of Athos, as well as the Orthodox Churches of Jerusalem, Georgia and Serbia and all zealots for the patristic testaments hold firmly to the Julian ecclesiastical Calendar and despite many pressures refuse to accept the New Style.

In an age of compromises and unheard of canonical deviations, of the loss of reverence before holy things, of the scandalous abbreviation of the divine services, of the rejection of fasting, not to speak of the female "priesthood," that total breach with Sacred Tradition;[65] in an age when "the abomination of desolation" seizes even Church circles, one needs to define truth "not by general Church consciousness, which at the present time does not suffice, but by the general Church Tradition, in agreement with the ancient Church."[66]

As in the times of the Monothelites and the Iconoclasts, one needs to seek the answer to the painful modern question of the ecclesiastical calendar in Sacred Tradition, remembering the example of Venerable Maximus the Confessor, who rejected the Monothelite heresy as an innovation and refused to commune with the Monothelite patriarch, "even if the whole universe should commune with him" (Menaion Readings, 21 January). In the same way, both the confessors and martyrs, who suffered for the holy icons, came out against iconoclasm, not waiting for a council, but being guided exclusively by Sacred Tradition, that most reliable criterion in resolving Church disturbances.

In regard to the ecclesiastical calendar, one can question with the words of Blessed Augustine on the Pelagian heresy: Is it really necessary to assemble a council in order to denounce such manifest perdition? If the Pelagian heresy was condemned only at a local Carthaginian council and, none the less, was rejected by the whole Orthodox Church, then the New Style also, which was condemned not by one, but by many councils and synods, ought to be finally rejected by all truly believing Orthodox.[67]

As for the vain-minded arguments of the patrons of the ecclesiastical Calendar’s reform, who have made for themselves an idol of science, "let it be known to them that it does not befit the Orthodox to be guided in Church life by science, but by Grace."[68]

The contemporary ecumenical movement seeks solutions that can resolve the calendar question. Among other proposals in regard to this question are two that are deliberated the most:

  1. To appoint the feast of Holy Pascha on one fixed day according to the Gregorian Calendar (the first or second Sunday of April). This proposal, which totally breaks with the decision of the Nicean Council, was supported by the Second Vatican Council.
  2. Determine the date of Pascha’s celebration by imparting a literal astronomical meaning to the concepts of "equinox" and "full moon."

According to A. N. Zelinsky’s opinion, both of these proposals are unacceptable. The first — in connection with the astronomical and canonical deficiencies of the Gregorian Calendar and its modifications; the second — in connection with the fact that "astronomical accuracy," understood literally, would place the Church in constant dependence upon the progress of astronomical knowledge; besides this, this solution would be uncanonical, since it allows the coincidence of Christian Pascha with the Jewish [Passover], that is, it leads to a total breach with patristic tradition.[69] "If the Christian confessions are destined to unite sometime," writes Zelinsky, "then that union, in the sphere of the liturgical ecclesiastical calendar, ought to rest on a solid, unshakable foundation. This foundation can only be the sacred calendrical-cosmological system of the Great Cycle of Creation — the brilliant conciliar creation of nameless devotees of science and faith."[70]

The Russian Church did not accept any divergences whatsoever from the prescriptions of the Holy Fathers. The Julian chronology remains inviolable in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church. Many eminent scholars were supporters of the Julian Calendar in Russia, among them Professors V. V. Bolotov and E. A. Predtechensky, Prof. N. G. Glubokovsky, the great Russian scholar-theologian, Prof. Priest D. A. Lebedev and the whole pious Russian people. "On account of the people’s decisive resistance," it proved to be impossible to introduce "the corrected Julian Style" into Russia in the year 1923, in spite of the enactment that was accepted. Metropolitan Innocent of Peking wrote that "every attempt ‘to correct’ or replace our Paschalia, has to be regarded as an attempt to take out of the Church’s treasury one of her great valuables, in which she can justly boast before the learned of our time."[71]

In taking part in the Commission on the Question of Reforming the Calendar in Russia, Prof. V. V. Bolotov spoke thus regarding this question: "As formerly, I remain a decisive reverer of the Julian Calendar. Its extreme simplicity constitutes its scientific advantage over every reformed calendar. I think that the cultural mission of Russia regarding this question consists in retaining the Julian Calendar in existence for a few more centuries and through this means facilitate for the Western peoples a return to the unspoiled Old Style from the Gregorian reform, which is not needed by anyone."[72]

The Gregorian reform of the calendar is truly a "new" style — a testimony of man’s new, rationalistic approach to the category of time. Beginning with the Renaissance, man wants to become the master of time. Time loses a mystical dimension for him; it ceases to be the time of expectation, becoming the time of progress. But "progress.. visible, accelerated progress, is always a symptom of the end."[73] Perhaps, then there will be no more time for repentance.
Time is God’s creation. Time, as well as all creation, lost its primal perfection with the fall of our foreparents into sin, and now awaits deliverance together with all of creation. God accomplishes the sanctification of creation, which partakes of His heavenly life. In the same way, the sanctification of time is also accomplished. Therefore, one can speak of the ecclesiastical calendar as of an icon of this sanctification of time. It is obvious that there also is unsanctified time, which does not have its place in this icon. Cosmic time, with all its rhythms, is in itself not yet a subject of iconography and is sanctified only through intercourse with sacred history. Hence the incompatibility of sanctified and unsanctified time, of the Church’s feasts and secular feasts. The profanation of the ecclesiastical calendar is an attempt to sacrilegiously defile what is holy, an attempt to expel what is already sanctified from the Heavenly Kingdom to the outer kingdom.

Having encroached on the chronology, sanctified for centuries, of the Julian Calendar and the Alexandrian Paschalia, the compilers of the Gregorian Calendar first of all set themselves the goal of consolidating the authority of the Pope and of Rome, which was tottering after the Reformation. The Gregorian reform, which had permitted itself to "abolish" ten existing days, reflected that general condition of soul and mind in the West according to which time began to depend on man’s will. Rationalism, having taken possession of minds, began to mechanize the world and desired to manage the laws of nature and time. "The flowers of evil," planted in those times, gave their bitter fruits in our age.[74]

People at the end of the twentieth century have begun to relate more skeptically to the "achievements" of the Renaissance. Modern, thoughtful man, casting a mental glance at the secularization, de-Christianization and, together with them, the complete moral decline of human society that followed the Renaissance, is beginning to interpret the Renaissance and approach it in a different way. In investigating the genealogy of modern man’s moral degradation, one may note by its roots that it comes forth precisely in the epoch of the Renaissance, the epoch of man’s unrestrained striving to be elevated, to be lord over everything: over nature, over those like himself, and, finally, over the Lord God Himself.

Avoiding glorification, and only establishing facts, it is necessary to say that the Russian Orthodox Church faithfully preserves the Apostolic and ecclesiastical tradition. Is not her faithfulness the pledge of her spiritual blossoming in our time? Does she not by this instill hope in modern Western men, who have come to a spiritual-moral dead end?

In the year 1988, we celebrated the millennium of the Baptism of Russia. Russia began after her encounter with Christ, and in the space of her whole difficult history, she never forgot the love of her "youth." Holy Russia is a concept that for some reason is referred to the past. Yet, Holy Russia never died: she is alive. She lives in the prayerful fervor of the Orthodox people, she is in the hearts of the ascetics who have taken up the monastic struggle, in spite of an atheistic upbringing. Holy Russia lives in the monasteries, in the churches, in her pious, God-fearing people.

In an age of apostasy, the Russian Orthodox Church brings to the world the good tidings of her faithful love for Christ. Now, when the eschatological acceleration of time is observable,[75] she, by preserving the ecclesiastical Julian Calendar, which has been sanctified by the ages, is herself an example of a reverent attitude toward God-given time. The fact that the Gregorian Calendar has become the calendar of practically in all of the countries of the world, still does not speak of its infallibility and desirability. "God is not in might, but in right," said the holy, right-believing Great-Prince Alexander Nevsky.

At the present time, a return in the West to iconography, which was forgotten for many centuries, is noticed. Why not suppose that a return to the icon of time — the Julian ecclesiastical Calendar — will also occur?[76]

What will the time of the future "eighth day" be like? We know only that it will be sanctified and will not be such as that which right now is calculated according to the sun and moon. One should probably not categorically oppose eternity to time. Perhaps sanctified time is already eternity?[77]

The Church of Christ unites the temporal and the eternal. This is realized, first of all, in the mystery of the Eucharist. While remaining in time, the Church, through the real presence of Christ, transfigures time, just as she also transfigures the world. The time of prayer is an entry into eternity, into the Kingdom of God, where "Christ is all and in all." Those who live in prayer know by experience that during divine services or private prayers, at the reading of the Gospel or the Psalter, the borders of time are as though erased. This occurs with the feeling of oneness with God, when the tender-hearted Lord somehow especially visits us. Then the heart responds to this divine cry of love and, finding itself outside of time, forgets about everything. We find this mystical experience of the Church in the works of the Holy Fathers; it is expressed especially vividly by Saint Symeon the New Theologian in his sermons and hymns.

As for the disagreements and the contradictory opinions in regard to the Julian Calendar, it seems that an argument to its advantage is the annual descent of the Grace-filled fire upon the Lord’s Tomb — a miracle which occurs during the conflux of many thousands of pilgrims on Great Saturday according to the Julian Calendar. In this, the mystical sanctification of this 2000-year old icon of time becomes visible.

I shall take the liberty of finishing this text with the words of an Orthodox monk: "Time is a great mystery, and one can touch a mystery only through symbols. The Julian Calendar is a icon of time. If we want to naturalize the concept of time, as the icon has been naturalized, turning it into a portrait, then why must we be oriented to the Gregorian style? There are even more accurate calendars. There is the calendar of the Incas, there is the calendar of Omar Khayyam, which possesses brilliant mathematical merits, and perhaps tomorrow some kind of new calendar will appear that is even more astronomically accurate. But we must not turn to observatories with an outstretched hand. We, the Church, have those mysteries concerning time which are written in the Bible and in the patristic works. We are the bearers of these mysteries and must reveal them to the world."

Nativity of Christ, 1988, New York

Translated by Daniel Olson
from "Pravoslavnyi Put" (in Russian), 1988.


* Translators note: In the Russian Bible, this passage reads "the month Abib", as in the English Bible (Authorized Version). However, a note in the Russian Bible provides an alternate version, which reads "the month of ears", thus translating "abib", which refers to ears of grain, rather than retaining it as the proper name of the month. It is this alternate version that the author has used in the present article.

** Translators note: “108:17” is the verse in the English-language The Psalter according to the Seventy, published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery. There are variations in numbering of verses in all the different editions and translations of the Bible.

Used by permission of the translator
Reprint also available in The Orthodox Church Calendar: In Defence of the Julian Calendar (ISBN 0884650618)