|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Essays about Orthodoxy|
The successors to the Apostles
The schismatic Old-Calendarists
by the late, blessed Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain
Taken from the book “The life of the elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain”, by the priest-monk fr. Isaac, pages 691 - 696
One of the many things that preoccupied the Elder was the issue of the calendar. This division pained him, and he prayed for it. He worried about all the groups of old-calendarists who are like twigs severed from the Vine and are not in communion with the Orthodox Patriarchates and the local autocephalous Orthodox Churches. Several such dioceses in Athens and Thessaloniki were reunited with the Church, upon his recommendation, while maintaining the old calendar.
In view of the above, the Elder used to say: «It would have been better, if this issue of the dates of feast-days didn’t exist, but then, this is not a problem of faith.» When confronted by objections claiming that the new calendar was formulated by a Pope, he would reply: «The new calendar was created by a Pope, and the old one by an idolater», implying Julius Caesar. In order to get a better idea of the Elder’s stance towards the issue of the calendar, a characteristic testimony is set out herebelow:
An Orthodox Hellene and his family lived for many years in America. But he had a serious problem. He himself was a “zealot” (old-calendarist), while his wife and children followed the new calendar. “It was impossible to celebrate a single feast-day together”, he said. “They had Christmas, and I would be celebrating Saint Spyridon. When I celebrated Christmas, they would be celebrating Saint John. And that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was knowing (according to what we were taught) that new-calendarists are heretics and as such are destined for eternal damnation. Its no small matter, to constantly hear how your wife and your children have betrayed their faith and have sided with the Pope, how their sacraments do not have Grace, and the suchlike.
We would talk for hours with my wife, but it got us nowhere. To be quite truthful, there was also something about the old-calendarists that I didn’t really like. Especially whenever their bishops came around and talked to us. They didn’t speak with love and anguish about the misguided (according to them) new-calendarists. It was as though they carried a hatred inside them and would appear to relish telling them that they are destined for eternal damnation. They were overly fanatic. After finishing their speech, I would be left feeling very disturbed inside me; I would lose my inner peace. Yet, not a thought passed my mind about leaving our tradition. I was about to burst. I was sure that something would happen to me, with all that worrying. In one of my trips to Greece, I spoke about my worries to my cousin John. He told me about a certain Elder Paisios. So, we decided to go to the Holy Mountain to meet him. We reached the Scete “Panagouda”. The Elder offered us a treat with his radiant smile, and made me sit next to him. I was stunned. The way that he behaved towards me, was as though he had known me for years; as though he knew everything about me.
“How are you managing with the cars, back in America?” Those were his first words. I was dumbfounded. (I forgot to mention that my job was in a parking lot, so naturally, I worked with cars all the time).
“I’m not doing too badly”, were the only words I managed to stammer, while looking at the Elder in a daze.
“How many churches are there, where you live?”
“Four”, I replied, and was immediately stunned by a second wave of surprise.
“With the old, or with the new calendar?”
Thus came the third lightning bolt, which, however, instead of increasing my surprise, somehow managed to familiarize me with, or “deposit” me into, the Elder’s charisma.
“Two with the old, and two with the new”, I replied.
“And which one do you go to?”
“I go to the old one and my wife goes to the new one”, I replied.
“Look, you should really go wherever your wife goes”, he counseled me with authenticity, and was getting ready to give me the appropriate explanations and arguments. But something inexplicable happened inside me; something divine. A weight was lifted from within me, and was flung far away from me. All the arguments and all the threats and bans regarding the new-calendarists that I had been hearing for years now, suddenly dissipated. I could feel the Grace of God acting on me through that holy man, flooding me with a peace that I had been seeking for years. The event that I was experiencing must have become evident in my features.....
From what I can remember, this probably made the Elder pause for a little; but he then resumed talking, giving me a few explanations anyway. Perhaps so I can relay them to others. Perhaps so that I can utilize them myself, during moments of temptation, when that heavenly condition would have passed.
«We too on the Holy Mountain follow the old calendar. But that is an entirely different thing; because we continue to be united with the Church, with all the Patriarchates, both those who follow the new calendar, as well as those who follow the old calendar. We acknowledge their sacraments and they acknowledge ours. Their priests co-officiate with our priests. Whereas these poor souls have cut themselves off. Most of them are pious, and they possess punctuality and perseverance and a zeal for God. The only problem is that this zeal lacks discretion; it is not a “conscientious” zeal. Some people got carried away, out of their simple-mindedness, and others out of egotism. They regarded the 13-day difference a dogmatic issue and all of us as heretics, and so they walked away from the Church. They have no communion whatsoever with the Patriarchates and the Churches that follow the new calendar, nor with the Patriarchates and the Churches that follow the old calendar, because these have supposedly become polluted through their contact with the new-calendarists. And not only that. Those few who are left, have split into goodness knows how many pieces. And they continue to split up amongst themselves, and they sling anathemas at one another, and they excommunicate one another, and they defrock one another. You have no idea how much this has pained me, and how much I have prayed for this matter. We need to love them and to feel sorry for them and not judge them, but most of all we must pray for them, so that God might enlighten them. And should any of them happen to ask us for help with a positive disposition, we must say a few words to them.”
More than five years have passed since the repose of the Elder. Mr. “X” had come to the Scete “Panagouda” to thank the Elder, because from that first visit, not only was his spirit restored, but his family also, and he narrated the above incident with tears in his eyes.
With his love, his prayer and his discretion, he always knew when to speak, how to act and offer his assistance to the Mother Church, avoiding all extremes, and curing all the wounds that tormented the Body of the Church and scandalized the faithful.
Translation by A.N.
Article published in English on: 13-11-2006.
Last update: 13-11-2006.