Reader Mail

The New Orthodoxy

Go Gregorian. Four-hour masses. Trusting Sam Reed. Skyscraping the bottom. Nickel hoarding. Plus more.

1.10.05

Send to Kindle

CHECK YOUR CALENDAR
Re: Shawn Macomber's Orthodox in the City:

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.

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.
-- Rick Hornung
Lynnwood, Washington

As I am married to a Russian who practices the Orthodox faith, there are other practices your readers might be interested in:

• The four-hour mass is received standing up. There are no pews in the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches. Chairs are available only for the elder of the congregation.

• Unlike a Catholic service, the sacraments are delivered from a closed vestry.

• The Russian Orthodox churches have two Bishops, one located in Dallas, the other in New York. Both cover very large territories. Many of the churches deliver a Mass in Russian at least once during the month.

• Icons and depictions are everywhere. Many, in churches like those in Sitka, are several hundred years old, ought to be considered national treasures.

Shawn, ask the parish father when they have Easter services. It is a very moving scene whether you are a member or not.
-- John McGinnis

WHOM CAN YOU TRUST?
Re: Heather Roscoe's Report From Washington-Florida:

If the initial vote count and every subsequent re-count are all within the margin of error, which is the correct result? What makes one more accurate than any other? Is it because it's the result you want?
-- Gordon Paravano
Sedona, Arizona

Your article was balanced and fair, which is great. However, you left out one very significant detail when listing what Sam Reed is offering as voting reforms. Specifically he has included a measure prohibiting paying for professional signature gatherers as part of the Washington State Initiative process, thus effectively gutting one of the voting public's last means of controlling our elected officials.

Given Spectator.org positions of the past, I can not imagine you would be supportive of this. Please don't hesitate to verify this small but important bit of legislation. With it, Mr. Reed is not to be trusted.
-- Warren Berger

UP, UP, AND AWAY
Re: Marina Malenic's Kissing the Sky:

I think there's a common thread between the Pyongyang and the Taiwan skyscrapers after all: "cargo cult" thinking. The idea seems to be: "The USA has skyscrapers. The US is rich and powerful. If we will build skyscrapers, we too will be rich and powerful."

This "if you build it, they will come" philosophy is irrational, but very common to human beings -- as seen with the tribesmen in New Guinea who built "airfields" and "control towers" out of mud and straw after WWII, in an attempt to get the large supply planes who landed there during the war to return.

The truth, of course, is the other way around -- the USA built skyscrapers because it was rich and powerful, not rich and powerful because it built skyscrapers. Now, it seems, the USA lost interest in building skyscrapers (by and large); this hardly means it is weaker. On the contrary: it means that the USA is not burdened by such "cargo cult" thinking. Americans do not think they MUST have the tallest building in the world, even if it loses tons of money, lest they "lose face."

I wonder if building such "vanity buildings" at huge expense, even in rich Taiwan -- let alone in poor Indonesia or starving North Korea -- is a wise choice. With all the talk in your article about "eternal human desires," etc., as the reason for their construction, I suspect these projects might turn out to be white elephants. Hopefully, the speakers are hypocrites who really built it to make money, after diligent economical research!
-- Avital Pilpel

I saw a program that showed the structure of the WTC towers. There was much innovation when tackling the problem of height, dealing with elevators and finding a means of support for the floors because conventional methods of trusses and joists wouldn't work the higher they went. The second part of the program showed how that very construction caused the unstoppable chain reaction that brought down the crumbling towers.

We should see a lesson in the rubble. It might be admirable and challenging and prestigious to design and build such structures. To those I will add hubris, "one-ups-manship," and a vulgar display of wealth. Why do we insist on being the highest, the best, number 1 -- competitive, oftentimes, at any cost? The wings of Icarus melted when he flew too high.

I know that there's not enough money or motivation in the world that would make me take a job in or even visit the new tower, especially if I had been one of the blessed ones that got out just in time or lost someone who didn't. I think the light "towers" are more appropriate and serve as a beautiful reminder of not only what happened, but to prompt the arrogance of man to some humility, honor, and in America, meanings that are more deeply noble than the commercialism or the driven need for prestige.

But then again, it also seems that many prestigious indulged New Yorkers have been forgetting, in their arrogant belief that all roads do not lead to New York.
-- Sue Ellen Hirtle

RED STATE NICKELS
Re: Lawrence Henry's The Mystery of the Vanishing Nickel:

My colleague Mr. Henry got into my head this weekend with his question of why the folks in the post office say that they never run out of nickels.

I believe that the models that I developed represent a legitimate solution. However, I must preface this with a disclaimer that I took no math or statistics in college, being an English and Classics major.

I would like to posit the following assumptions:

(1) People making change from cash registers prefer giving dimes, because it speeds up the process.

(2) People paying with change prefer giving nickels, because their bias is to remove excess weight from their pockets.

I then constructed the following model, with these givens:

(1) We assume that there are an equal amount of transactions for each amount of cents, both being paid in as payment and paid out as change. In other words, every 198 transactions will include one person paying one cents, one paying two cents, etcetera until ninety-nine, and conversely, one person giving a dollar who needs one cent in change, one who needs two cents, until ninety-nine.

(2) We assume that the pro-dime bias of the cashier will work up to three dimes and the pro-nickel bias of the buyer will work up to three nickels. In other words, the cashier will give 55 cents as a quarter and three dimes instead of two quarters and a nickel. The buyer will give 65 cents as two quarters and three nickels.

Using this system, we receive these results:

For every 198 purchases, we can expect to be given out in change 200 pennies, 25 nickels 125 dimes and 135 quarters. Received in payment will be 200 pennies, 160 nickels, 20 dimes and 150 quarters. Net result: pennies even, 135 new nickels to the cashier, 105 extra dimes given out, 15 new quarters to the cashier. Only dimes need refilling in this system, while nickels flow heavily into the cashier.

A second approach is to assume that any time the total of cents is 50 or less, the buyer will pay with change. When it's 51 or more, he will pay with a dollar and receive change. Using this assumption, we get: 100 pennies in, 100 out. 80 nickels in, 15 out. 10 dimes in, 55 out. 27 quarters in, 22 out. Similar result. In short, while forgiving pennies to people may deplete that supply after awhile, nickels will only increase in the register.

Add to this the fact that the question was asked in the Post Office, whose most common single purchase is probably the book of 20 stamps at $7.40. People who pay with change will give a quarter, a dime and a nickel. People who receive change will get two quarters and a dime, thus building up the nickel supply at the post office.

Thanks For Stimulating Thought,
-- Jay D. Homnick

I think it boils down to cost effectiveness. Quarters are powerful. Although larger, they are useful, as you noted, in nearly all change transactions. For their size, they buy a lot. Dimes are tiny compared to nickels, but worth twice as much. Therefore, dimes are actually probably four times more valuable than nickels due to their limited size and weight cost, but relatively high purchasing power. Dimes can also replace quarters, as you also noted, in many transactions where quarters are scarce. For instance, a can of soda might cost 50 cents at a vending machine. This is equivalent to two quarters or five dimes, each of which have similar size and weight characteristics in your pocket and are generally interchangeable. Quarters usually win out though because there's less manual work in using only two coins versus five. Dimes are the runner up. But it would take ten nickels to achieve the same transaction, thus exponentially multiplying the manual work in handling the change, and at two to three times the bulk and weight in your pocket. Nickels simply aren't cost effective. The result is that people prefer to carry quarters and dimes, pay in quarters and dimes, and leave the nickels and pennies in the "take/leave" tray next to the register or simply tell the clerk to "keep the change". I even sometimes discard pennies on the street rather than clutter up my car with them. The average American worker probably earns roughly 30 to 60 cents per minute while on the clock... it's simply not worth the hassle of managing such tiny amounts of money as denominations under 10 cents. The old adage that a penny saved is a penny earned no longer holds. In this day in age, when time is money, a nickel saved is a quarter lost.
-- Tom Anderson

Here in Sioux Falls, SD, I get plenty of nickels back with my change. But if there is a shortage, it might be because of the U.S. Postal Service.

If you put a ten-dollar bill into a stamp dispensing machine and get a book of 20 stamps, you get two dollar coins and 12 nickels for change. I think the USPS must have a monopoly.
-- Alan Ross

TIME FOR TORTURE
Re: Mark Goldblatt's Torturous Decisions:

Forget "famous thought experiment" and instead concentrate on the possibility that the situation described is real. Next imagine a loved one on this hypothetical flight. Suddenly things change -- if you are honest in your answer. Who amongst us would not do all in our power to save a loved one, including "forcing" information from a known accomplice in the act of terrorism?

The question itself bears the hallmark of puerile academia, real people: Men, Women, Democrat or Republican, would do all they could to extract this information from the known accomplice. This though relies on the accomplice being known 100 % to be involved in the bombing, and time constraints on extracting the information being in effect.

I believe that currently there are situations where people are being tortured who have no useful information of any sort, the result being that they profess to anything they believe their interrogators "want to hear." This is pointless and counter productive... and easily used as a real treason for not extracting information from suspects.

The original question should verify that the suspect is 100 % involved in the bombing, and that timely information from him/her would save lives --of loved ones. Ask 100 people the question and see what response you get!
-- Ian Squires
Oxford, U.K.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article