Being a convert to Orthodoxy for over 27 years now, I read with interest Mr. Macomber’s article “Orthodox in the City” which is about Orthodoxy and its celebration of Christmas on the “old” (Julian) calendar. May I respectfully make several points:
1. Not all jurisdictions celebrate Christmas using the old calendar. Most jurisdictions in America (e.g., the Orthodox Church in America, Antiochian Archdiocese, Greek Archdiocese of North and South America) celebrate using the Gregorian (new) calendar, i.e., December 25th as we all know it. However, all these jurisdictions still use the old calendar to date Easter. That is why Latin and Orthodox Easter usually varies by one, four or five weeks. (Sometimes the two Easters end up being the same day, but most years Orthodox Easter follows Latin Easter.) Thus, most American jurisdictions use a “hybrid” liturgical calendar, “old” for the dating of Easter and “new” for everything else, including Christmas. As far as I know, only the Orthodox Church of Finland is completely on the new calendar; thus, all major feast days (Easter, Christmas, Epiphany, etc.) correspond to the Latin dates.
2. To this day, the question of “old” vs. “new” calendar is a hot button issue among certain Orthodox. There are a number of “old calendar” jurisdictions formerly out of communion with the “mainstream” Orthodox jurisdictions (such as mentioned above) over the calendar and other issues. Many Orthodox feel the new calendar is the “door to modernism and secularism” in the Church. Much of it has to do with the fact that the Catholic Church instituted the calendar change, thus stirring up ancient enmities between the Latin and Greek branches of the Church. Personally, I see no theological reason that the entire Orthodox Church should not move entirely move to the new calendar, but such a thing happening will doubtful ever happen in my lifetime.
The calendar issue may seem silly to those outside the Orthodox Church (and indeed, I do think it is silly myself), but this question evokes a lot of emotion and passion among certain of the faithful to this day. Also, I should point out that the Orthodox jurisdictional situation, especially in America, is quite complicated and confusing. Thus, just because one Orthodox jurisdiction (like the Bulgarians) remain on the old calendar completely does not necessarily mean it is out of communion with those using the hybrid or full new calendar. In the Orthodox Church of America (now a fully independent, self-governing jurisdiction, but formerly under the Patriarchate of Moscow), it is my understanding that certain parishes have chosen to remain completely on the old calendar. Whether that is wise from a pastoral point of view is a question for another discussion and another day.
3. Just for the record, the Julian Calendar now lags the Gregorian by 13 days. Thus, old calendar Christmas which is held on January 7th Gregorian is actually December 25th Julian. In 2100, which is NOT a leap year (since it is not divisible by 400), the Julian Calendar will lag the Gregorian one day further, that is, 14 days. In 2200, the lag will increase to 15 days, and so forth.p>I thank Mr. Macomber for an interesting article. I hope this helps to explain the vagaries and complexities surrounding the Orthodox Church’s use of the two major calendars. br> — Rick Hornung br> Lynnwood, Washington
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