Posts tagged calendar
It’s almost Christmas for those of us on the New Calendar, but of course, our Old Calendar brethren will have to wait an additional 13 days. Originally, of course, all Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas on the same day, because we all followed the same calendar. In 1923, an Inter-Orthodox Congress met at Constantinople under the presidency of the infamous Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis and voted to adopt the New Calendar. Over time, a lot of the world’s Orthodox Churches went along with the switch, but many refused and continue to use the Old Calendar. Hence the current discrepancy.
The thing many people don’t realize is that not every Orthodox Church that uses the New Calendar adopted it in 1923. According to Dr. Lewis Patsavos of Holy Cross, the latest Church to make the switch was Bulgaria, which did so in 1968.
Another thing people don’t realize is that some Orthodox in America were already following the New Calendar prior to its official 1923 endorsement. A couple of years ago, I wrote about how a Greek community in Columbia, SC arbitrarily adopted the New Calendar in 1914. That group didn’t have a priest or a formal church, but even earlier, in 1900, a Syrian colony in Fort Wayne, IN celebrated Christmas on the New Calendar’s December 25, and they were joined by a visiting priest from New York. (Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, 12/25/1900.) I’m not sure, but it’s possible that the priest was St. Raphael Hawaweeny. If it wasn’t him, it must have been one of his subordinates.
On the flip side, the Antiochian Archdiocese didn’t celebrate a New Calendar Christmas until 1940. The New York Times (1/6/1941) reported, “Departing from an ancient custom, the Syrian Orthodox Antiochian Church, which formerly followed the Julian calendar, celebrated Christmas on Dec. 25 this year…” That’s a full 17 years after the 1923 Inter-Orthodox Congress. And — someone correct me if I’m wrong here — the OCA waited until 1982 to switch calendars.
Anyway, to all of our New Calendar readers, we wish you a joyous Christmas. To our Old Calendar readers, happy St. Herman’s day!
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
UPDATE: In the comments below, William Kosar has pinned down when the Metropolia/OCA began making the switch from the Old to the New Calendar. William writes, “After a little research, it was at the Thirteenth Sobor of November 14-16, 1967 that the decision was made permitting parishes, upon approval of their diocesan bishop, to use the new calendar.” The 1982 date that I cited seems to refer to when then-Bishop Herman Swaiko of Eastern PA forced all the parishes in his diocese to adopt the New Calendar. Up to that point, it appears that parishes could choose. See the comments for more on how the process of choosing worked.
Until the early 1980s, some OCA parishes in the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania used the Old Calendar. In 1982, then-Bishop Herman Swaiko of Philadelphia ordered all of his parishes to switch to the New Calendar. Predictably, this wasn’t universally well-received. The majority of St. Basil Orthodox Church in Simpson, PA jumped to ROCOR, and this led to a dispute over the parish property. The case, Mikilak v. Orthodox Church in America went to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in 1986.
The court reviewed the history of Russian Orthodoxy generally and St. Basil’s in particular. The parish was founded in 1904 as part of the Russian Mission, and originally, both the parish congregation and the ruling Russian bishop in America had legal control (by deed) of church property. The parish was formally incorporated in 1924, and the incorporation document stated that the property was “subject to the control and disposition of the lay members” of the parish. (No reference to any hierarchy or diocesan authority.) Three years later, a court transferred the bishop’s interest in the parish property to the parish itself, giving the congregation complete legal control over the property. In 1937, the parish adopted bylaws which again asserted that the property belonged “to all members of the parish.”
All this time – all the way up to 1956 – the parish hadn’t formally recognized any hierarchical authority: not ROCOR, not the Metropolia, and apparently not the Moscow Patriarchate either. I don’t know how this worked, as a practical matter. Who assigned the parish priest? Whose signature was on the antimens? Was the parish never visited by a bishop? Anyway, this is what the court tells us, and we’re further told that in 1956, the parish voted to affiliate with the Metropolia. The Moscow Patriarchate sued (this was just after Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral, and Moscow wasn’t interested in losing control of any property), but the case settled and the parish kept its building. So from 1956 to 1982, St. Basil’s was a part of the Metropolia/OCA — but this was never put into the legal documents of the parish.
In Pennsylvania, courts use the neutral principles of law approach in church property disputes when there is “no inquiry into ecclesiastical questions.” The burden, said the court, is on the OCA to show either (1) a transfer of property from the parish to the OCA, or (2) “clear and unambiguous language” indicating that the parish created a trust in favor of the OCA. If there was a trust, the parish would remain the property owner, but it couldn’t just do what it wanted, without OCA consent.
As the court saw it, there was neither a transfer of ownership nor a trust. From 1927 (the court order noted above) onward, the parish property belonged solely to St. Basil’s congregation. The parish never created a trust in favor of the OCA. Even the OCA Statute (Article X, Section 8) supports this, said the court, since it asserts that “[t]he parish or parish corporation is the sole owner of all parish property, assets, and funds.” Yes, the Statute goes on to say that the parish officers must “act as trustees of God’s, not man’s, property” and other such ambiguous language. But there’s no creation of a trust. The only caveat is the stipulation that if the parish is abolished, the antimension, tabernacle, and sacred vessels must be surrendered to the diocesan bishop.
On the basis of these findings, the court ruled that the congregation could keep its property when it joined ROCOR, except that it must return the holy objects I mentioned above.
The court doesn’t really get into the obvious issue of defining the parish. It treats the majority as being the parish, but from the OCA’s perspective, the parish was really the minority of members that remained in the OCA. We’re not congregational, so what gives? The answer, according to the court, is that “St. Basil’s exercises congregational control and ownership over its church property.” And the hallmark of “congregational” churches is that the majority rules. So, even though St. Basil’s was a part of the hierarchical Orthodox Church, on the level of parish property, it was treated the same as a congregational church.
I’m sympathetic to the parish majority, who didn’t want to be forced to accept the New Calendar, but the outcome of this case raises some alarm bells. The court quite casually classifies this case as one not involving “ecclesiastical questions,” and it’s this classification that allows the court to employ the neutral principles approach. But the church calendar is an ecclesiastical question. For that matter, the deeper issue of a diocesan bishop’s authority is also an ecclesiastical question. The court was, quite frankly, wrong when it claimed that there were no ecclesiastical questions at issue.
Which gets to a broader point that I keep running into — there is no such thing as an Orthodox court case that doesn’t involve ecclesiastical questions. How could there be? The power of a bishop or synod, the identification of this or that group as the “true” parish — these are profoundly ecclesiastical questions, and they are inherent in every Orthodox property dispute I’ve seen. I’m not saying neutral principles shouldn’t be applied, or even that I disagree with the court’s decision (I actually take no position on it right now). I’m saying that the court was factually incorrect, and had it accurately recognized the ecclesiastical issues in the case, it would have been legally obligated to apply deference to the higher church authorities (in this case, Bishop Herman Swaiko).
Because all Orthodox court cases necessarily involve ecclesiastical questions, we will need to develop a framework more nuanced than the binary yes/no approach currently employed by the courts. We must admit, up front, that courts will decide ecclesiastical questions, in every case, whether they like it or not. It is unavoidable, regardless of whether they use deference or neutral principles. And because it’s unavoidable, we must accept it and develop some guidelines to ensure that judges can do their jobs without involving themselves too deeply in the affairs of the Orthodox Church.
I have no answers at this point, and if anyone out there has any helpful suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
Today, of course, is Christmas for those Orthodox Christians on the Old (Julian) Calendar. Until the 1920s, all of Orthodoxy used the Old Calendar, and of course that included all the Orthodox in America. As we’ve discussed, the American media thought that this was thoroughly fascinating, and newspapers often ran articles on “Greek” or “Russian” Christmas. One thing that I’ve noticed, in reading these Christmas accounts, is the diversity of traditions among the Orthodox in various parts of the country.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (12/24/1905) commented on the East-West calendar difference, and then pointed out another distinction:
In the [Western denominations] both the time immediately preceding and the period following Christmas Day are times of feasting. In the Greek Church, on the contrary, the forty days preceding Christmas are set aside as a time of fasting, just as Lent precedes Easter. In the local church the communicants are not required to strictly observe this rule. All that is asked is that they observe the week preceding Christmas as a time of fasting.
I suspect that this laxness in fasting was pretty common in American Orthodox parishes. But people didn’t just universally ignore the fast. The Washington Times (1/7/1912) notes, “Since December Greeks abstained from eating meat.” With the arrival of Christmas, the DC Greeks began to feast, going from house to house. “The most humble peanut vendor is privileged by this custom to enter the home of the wealthiest man in the city and cannot be turned away.”
Children, of course, have always been prominent in Christmas celebrations. On Christmas Eve in the Russian church in Wilkes-Barre, PA, the priest, St. Alexis Toth, held a special event for the children of the parish. From the Wilkes-Barre Times (1/7/1907):
A large Christmas tree, prettily decorated and lighted, had been erected on the platform and after several hymns had been sung the treat consisting of candy and fruit for each child had been distributed by Father Toth, there were several more hymns, including the rendition of “America” in English.
It’s not clear, from the newspaper, whether the Christmas tree was actually inside the temple, or in some other part of the building.
While some Orthodox exchanged gifts on Christmas Day, others waited until Old Calendar New Year’s Day. From the Galveston Daily News (1/8/1913):
Christmas among the members of the Greek Orthodox Church is purely a religious festival. Unlike the Yuletide celebrations of the other Christian churches, it contains no elements of feasting or gift giving. The Greek New Year, which is to be celebrated on Jan. 13, is in commemoration of the circumcision of the Child Christ and is the day of feasting and giving of gifts among the members of the faith. Places of business are closed and every child of the Greeks, rich or poor, great or obscure, is remembered with presents.
The giving is observed in a peculiar form. Santa Claus is not known by name, but the children are told that the “ghost” has come down the chimney and brought the candies, sweets and presents that make them happy. Every child is remembered without any exception, and the parents cloak their giving unselfishly, letting the child believe that the gifts came direct from God, as the ghost who brings them is supposed to be the Holy Spirit.
I’m curious; do any of our readers know about this tradition — both the giving of gifts on New Year’s Day and the Holy Spirit coming down the chimney?
One of the most obvious practical issues facing early Orthodox Christians in America was the difference between the Church calendar — the “Julian” calendar — and the civil (“Gregorian”) calendar. In the 19th century, twelve days separated the two calendars; after the turn of the century, the difference was thirteen days. And since the “New Calendar” wasn’t adopted by any of the world’s Orthodox Churches until the 1920s, the calendar discrepancy was something that every American Orthodox Christian dealt with.
Newspaper reporters were amused by the difference, and every year, there would be a spate of articles on the “Russian Christmas,” or the “Greek New Year.” For instance, here’s something from the Philadelphia Inquirer (12/24/1905):
When the thousands of children of this city upon whom the favor of good old St. Nicholas will fall this year have lost the keen delight first occasioned by the sight of their toys there will be about three hundred little ones who will still be wondering what Christmas morn will bring forth. There will also be about one thousand adults who have not yet satisfied their inclination for gift-giving.
It will not be until the seventh day of January that Christmas Day will dawn for these people.
It is due to the fact that they are communicants of the Greek Orthodox Church that their Christmas is so belated in comparison with that of the Western churches, the difference in time — thirteen days — being caused by the Greek Church’s adherence to the Julian calendar. All the Western churches use the Gregorian calendar, it having been adopted early in the eighteenth century.
Even before a portion of global Orthodoxy adopted the New Calendar in the 1920s, some American Orthodox people thought that a change should be made. On Pascha in 1906, Greek laborers in Gurley, Arkansas got into a fight over ”whether the modern or the Greek Church calendar should be observed in celebrating the Christian festival.” The fight turned into a drunken riot, and it got so bad that the National Guard had to be called in. At least seven men died, and many more were injured. (Cf. New York Times, 4/17/1906.)
Fortunately, the calendar issue didn’t always lead to such turmoil. The Greeks in Columbia, South Carolina peacefully took matters into their own hands. From The State (1/8/1915):
Yesterday was Christmas day, under the Julian calendar, which is that retained by the Greek Orthodox church, but the Greek colony in Columbia, comprising upwards of 100 persons, lacking a church, did not observe the day. Louis Malloy, proprietor of a restaurant, said that he and his fellow countrymen in Columbia had adopted the Gregorian calendar and therefore their Christmas is December 24.
I should emphasize, both the chaos in Arkansas and the unilateral lay action in Columbia were anomalies; the vast majority of American Orthodox kept strictly to the Julian Calendar. In 1917, Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine drafted an article on the calendar issue. I don’t think it was ever published; I found a handwritten copy in the OCA archives, and I’ve never seen it anywhere else.
It is very inconvenient, for the members of the Holy Orthodox Church to be observing the Great Festivals and fasts on days other than those on which Christians who belong to the Western Patriarchate and Protestantism observe. Many faithful sons of Orthodoxy have lost their positions because they have kept Fasts and Festivals on days which have not coincided with those of their Western brethren. Work would not wait for them and therefore, others stepped into their “jobs.” In many respects it takes a martyr to be a member of the Holy Orthodox Church in America – especially in the City of Greater New York.
The Holy Orthodox Church observes what is known as the Julian Calendar. The Roman Church and all Protestant Bodies, on the other hand, observe the Gregorian. At present there is (since 1901) thirteen days difference. That is, the Gregorian Calendar runs ahead of the Julian and unless some conclusion is universally accepted as to the best method of correcting the whole Calendar the difference will become greater as the years come and go.
Who is at fault for this divergency? Historians will not lay the blame on the Orthodox. Rome has ever been the transgressor in such matters. Her assumption of the doctrine of “supremacy” has given her the idea that all Christendom must bow before her. Four hundred years ago the Orthodox Church had little consideration in the minds of the West. Protestantism even worried more over Papal doctrines, interval abuses and superstitions than about the ancient ways and unblemished truths kept sacredly in the bosom of the Holy Orthodox Church of the East.
It may, indeed, be inconvenient for the Orthodox Church members in the West to go by the Julian Calendar and while Western Christians may count their Eastern brethren archaic in their observations yet the keeping of the Julian Calendar here in the West serves a good purpose. It is a standing protest against the encroachments of Rome on the rights of Christendom and suggests investigation on the part of seekers after Ancient ways and truths amongst Protestants.
So, according to Irvine, the calendar difference could actually be a blessing in disguise, providing an opportunity for evangelism. He then went into considerable detail about the differences between the two calendars, and why Rome was wrong to have arbitrarily changed things. He then concluded:
According to this mode of reckoning, and because of the Church of the West’s disregard under the Roman Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th Century of the Canons of the General Council of Niece, there is sometimes several weeks difference between the two Churches in holding Easter. This creates confusion and is destructive to the Faith.
Again: — Whose fault is it? Surely it is not that of the Holy Orthodox Church. Being the Mother Church of Christendom she must protect the Canons of the General Councils which are binding upon all Christians. The Western Church is only a part of the Catholic Church, in fact her disobedient child.
For the information of inquirers it may be added that, Easter will fall on the same day for both Churches in the years 1916, ’22, ’30, ’36, ’39, ’42, ’43, etc., etc. In the intervening years there will be from one to several weeks apart in the observance of the Blessed Day – the greatest of Feasts which ought to bring us all together to the Empty Tomb of our One Lord and Risen Saviour. Whose fault is it that we are divided?
Of course, in the end, most of the Orthodox in America did switch to the New Calendar (with only the Paschal cycle remaining on the Old). That change, which was first implemented in 1924, is a story for another day.
Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, the great convert priest who was ordained by St. Tikhon in 1905, may well be the most quotable figure in American Orthodox history. You can expect lots of Irvine-related material on this website well into the future, but I thought that today, I might offer some particularly great quotations from the man who was once nicknamed, “The Spurgeon of Brookhaven,” and who, in my opinion, might justifiably be called, “The Prophet of American Orthodoxy.”
On the modern world (1895): “People have to-day lost sight of Scriptural facts and become afraid of the old ritual. [...] I do not care who may criticise me when I say that there cannot be found a more idolatrous age, full of Satanic cunning; an age governed more by loud talk, gold and allurement than by pure Christianity.”
On the Episcopal Church: “The Anglican Church is not the true platform of unity. She is too political and diplomatic, always compromising for expediency and shading like a chameleon to attract each Protestant Sect. [...] She allows her Bishops in some respects to be more papal than the Pope of Rome and she gives to her laymen the casting vote in Doctrine, Discipline and Worship.”
On the Orthodox Church: “It may without controversy be truly said that she is the parent Church of all Christian Churches, whether they be Roman or Anglican or Protestant, and that as such she ought to take her place in every land, in every city, in every hamlet, so that those Churches which have either added to or taken from the Faith of the first seven General Councils [...] may correct their creeds, articles and charts by her original and scriptural standard of ‘the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints.’”
On the teachings of Orthodoxy: “The Holy Eastern Church says just what she means; and means what she says.”
On his conversion the Orthodox Church: “God the Holy Ghost, on the morning of Whitsunday [Pentecost], 1905, in St. Mary’s Church, Philadelphia, in response to the inquiry of my soul, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ commanded me in an irresistible way, ‘Go and work for the Holy Eastern Church.’ And I was obedient unto the voice.”
On prayer: “Heaven, is nearer to us than Boston is to New York. I can speak from New York through a telephone to a friend in Boston. Why not through prayer – God’s own ancient telephone, never out of order – speak with a friend in a nearer place? Heaven is where Christ is present. The spiritual law of Religion surely is as great as the physical law of Science. To doubt it would be folly.”
On St. Tikhon: “To see the Archbishop celebrate at the Liturgy was an inspiration. In every word, act and posture he was perfect, yet unconscious of self because of his reverent and natural spirit.”
On St. Raphael’s death: “We see him now in his true light, great and good, learned, and, yet humble as a little child, a brave champion for the Orthodox Faith, yet filled with love for all mankind.”
On Orthodox unity in America: “Let it be hoped that, at least here in the United States, where children of parents unfriendly to each other in the old world intermarry and love each other, the sons and daughters of all the Orthodox Confederated Churches of Europe, Asia and Africa may realize that in unity of organization there is strength.”
To negligent Syrian parents: “Oh, foolish parent, who hath bewitched you! What demon is it which has blinded your eyes, dulled your understanding and filled you with unnatural love for your children? Do you think that love only means the satisfying of the eye, the ear, the palate and the body? Alas, these are the last to be thought of.”
On translator Isabel Hapgood: “That vixen Miss Hapgood. What a liar – she has damned the Church for years.”
In response to an article by Hapgood: “Our Archbishop was not called by the Holy Ghost to consecrate our Choir Leaders for roving Singing-Bands to help and please new Orthodox churchgoers. Music is a luxury, but the ‘Bread of Life,’ distributed through ‘twenty little new parishes,’ is a necessity.”
On the Old Calendar: “It is a standing protest against the encroachments of Rome on the rights of Christendom and suggests investigation on the part of seekers after Ancient ways and truths amongst Protestants.”
On Freemasonry: “If a Bishop of the Church is a Freemason then every priest had better be a Mason in his Diocese, for otherwise it may follow that a Jew, an Infidel, an Atheist etc. or the lowest saloon keeper, or house of ill fame manager, as a member, would have more influence as a Mason with the Masonic Bishop than the priest who was not a member of the Order.”
On Fr. (later Archbishop) Aftimios Ofiesh: “I will never recognize him as a Bishop. I can not serve God and Mammon in the Episcopate.”
In defense of the use of English: “Here are our thousands of young Orthodox of the parentage of every nationality who are being educated in our public schools and entering into our Mercantile and Professional life. They look upon the language of their parents as only an accomplishment, but not as a medium of either religion, politics or business. Are you and I, as Orthodox going to starve them both soul, mind and body simply because we love too well but not wisely, our mother tongue? I am not fighting for the English language as a tongue. My words would fit any other country with its mother tongue as well as that of North America. I am fighting for a principle and Orthodoxy.”
More on English in the services: “I am convinced that the Russian Holy Orthodox Church in America and every part of the Orthodox Church under her jurisdiction cannot prosper as she and they should unless we use English more freely in her and their services. I venture to say that in the recital of every Liturgy, we ought to have one or more Ektenias, etc. in English and until this is carried into effect we will be losing hundreds of youth as we are now irrespect of claims to the contrary.”
On himself: “From without and within, there may be some who would like to have me brushed aside. Yet be it so, still clearly, fearlessly, loudly but lovingly and respectfully, I proclaim, we need Aggressive Orthodox Catholicity for the Truth’s Sake.”