Posts Tagged ‘Gregorian Calendar’

Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is Risen!

Yes, on the Third Monday of Pascha yesterday morning – May 12 (NS)! – some snow stuck to the ground in higher elevations of southwestern Pennsylvania (link may break), the Commonwealth where I and alot of other Orthodox live!

This discussion goes back to my recent post occasioned by the (Western) Good Friday Blizzard in the U.S. Midwest,* pointing out that the (small-T) traditional Western association of Easter with Spring is actually more likely to be fulfilled by Orthodox Pascha – for the next few thousand years anyway, if the Lord doesn’t return in Glory first – because at this time it’s usually one, two, or five weeks later than Easter, and will gradually get later vis a vis the seasons, over time, until of course it reaches Northern Autumn, at which point it will start moving back behind the other way, so to speak, toward Northern Spring.  Anyway, that means it’s alot less likely to snow in the Northern Hemisphere, or be wintry-cold; not impossible, just less likely!

I’ve been prevented by circumstances from replying to A Simple Sinner’s challenge there until now, among them my own continued study of the Calendar situation within Orthodoxy, and between Orthodoxy and Catholicism / Protestantism.  What I’ve learned is that Old Calendar Christianity – ie, most of Christendom before 1582 – essentially knowingly sacrificed, and continues to sacrifice, a little bit of astrological** accuracy in favor of perfect Liturgical convenience.  (As one calendar expert opines [quoted here], “However accurate we might try to make them, calendars should be judged not by their scientific sophistication, but by how well they serve social needs.”  Or as Another putteth it, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.”)

As a result of the determination of the Orthodox Paschalion or scheduling of Easter during the first Christian millennium (pursuant to the decision of the First Ecumenical Synod, the Council of Nicea, in AD 325), Western and Byzantine Christian worship services fell into a 532-year cycle discussed briefly and relatively simply here with relatively little polemic.  NB: Father Alexander, with the staunchly Old-Calendar Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, misspoke at one point: the 19-year cycle is lunar, and the 28-year cycle is solar, not the other way around.  Vis a vis the Julian calendar of dates and leap years, the dates of the moon phases calculated for planning purposes – approximate to the observed phases – follow a sequence that repeats every 19 Julian years.  And as the same linked paragraph also notes, Julian dates recur on the same days of the week every 28 years.  28 times 19 equals 532, the two cycles resynchronizing together every 532 years.

It wasn’t just about Easter / Pascha.  For medieval Byzantine Christians, nearly every day of the year was – and for all Orthodox still is – describable in relation to Pascha, whether it’s a day of a week of the Triodion (pre-Lent), the Great Fast (Lent), Holy Week, the actual Pascha Season, or weeks after Pentecost for the rest of the year and early the following year until the Triodion comes around again.  Most people don’t make this connection – it took me a while – but literally every day is a Moveable Feast!  For medieval Western Christians, only the Season(s) of Advent / Christmas / Epiphany were taken out of the relationship to Easter, days of these weeks being defined specially.  (Byzantine Christians didn’t have such a liturgical Advent [just our Nativity Fast], nor an Epiphany / Theophany ‘season’ really.)  When I was going through Catholic schools and seminaries, even “Ordinary Time” was discussed Pentecostally in terms of “the life of the Spirit in the Church,” even if the name “Ordinary Time” seems like “generic/not exciting”!

Therefore, for Byzantine and High-Church Western Christians then and today still, any given day has two aspects.  Easterners characterize these as the Menaion and the Paschalion, ie, the Fixed and the Moveable – the commemoration of the numerical calendar date, and that of the relation to Pascha.  (This is why some of us consider it imprecise to call the Old Calendar as used in most of the Orthodox Church “the Julian Calendar.”  Caesar didn’t know about the Resurrection of Christ, because JC – the earlier one who only thought he was god – died too soon!  OC Orthodox’ Menaion is Julian, but the Paschalion is Hebrew.)  Westerners traditionally thought of them a little differently, the Liturgical Season (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost) or “Temporal Cycle,” and the saint’s feast of the numerical calendar date otherwise, the “Sanctoral Cycle.”

Why is all this important?  Because as I said, the sequence of services – not just Eucharistic Liturgy, but also the Hours and some other Church services – repeated every 532 years.  Each day’s services were also complicated by multiple commemorations on many days of the year, and because of the Menaion and Paschalion (to use the Eastern terms) seeming to jump with regard to each other yearly, a priest needed help putting together any given day’s services.  He didn’t invent them himself eventually, but had the accumulated Holy Tradition in this regard to guide him.  As Fr. Alexander said in the linked article, for Orthodox the key to this (big-T) Tradition is called the Typikon (or Typicon), a big book that describes all the possible combinations of feasts and fasts for the 532-year cycle.  ISTM the Church of Rome had something similar whose most common name seems to have been the Ordinarius, the basis of the Ordo, although as this (old) Catholic Encyclopedia article emphasizes, it varied a bit with the addition of local, regional, or national feasts, or those pertaining to a particular religous or monastic order, and their interaction with the universal (Latin) feasts; this is also true in Orthodoxy, without vitiating the reliance on the Typicon as a whole.  Examples of Orthodox versions of the annual extracts from the Ordinarius that were eventually printed by dioceses, provinces, nations, and orders of the Church of Rome (as the CE discusses) include these from the (Old Calendar) Diocese of Alaska of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), and the “2008 Tipic” currently available on the homepage of the OCA’s (New Calendar) Romanian diocese.  (I don’t know if all the OCA’s dioceses do their own Orders of Divine Services; the Romanian diocese’s commemorations might vary from those of the rest of the OCA due to their Romanian traditions, most of the rest of the OCA being of Russian or Carpatho-Russian heritage.  And Alaska is their only remaining OC diocese, so its Menaion would differ from most of the rest of that jurisdiction [though they also have a few dozen OC parishes in other dioceses].)

So what?  I believe Fr. Alexander exaggerates when he complains that parishes and jurisdictions on the Orthodox New Calendar “throw the Typicon in the trash.”  IIUC, they will only gradually, over the centuries, accumulate combinations of feast-days not currently covered by the Traditional Orthodox Typikon.  But most usage of the Typicon t/Traditionally didn’t consist of the ‘dartboard’ approach he and others often employ – impressively – to prove its usefulness, but instead just marching through it day by day, week by week.  The Typikon in a sense was the calendar, covering both Menaion and Paschalion.  The same for the Ordinarius in the West.  I can’t find discussion of the impact of the Gregorian Calendar reform on the Ordinarius and the Ordo, but since the Western Church went from a 532-year cycle to a nearly 6-million-year one, it has had to require increasing intervention by Rome to account for unaccounted-for combinations of universal (Latin) and other feasts, a significant departure from Tradition.  Or massive depletion of feasts from the calendar, as has happend in the last few generations, with the liturgical “reform’s” increased focus on the Seasons, and the ‘lay-off’ of certain well-known but ancient Saints now questioned, such as Christopher and Philomena, and the Great-Martyr George for God’s sake!  (Sorry, I almost never take God’s Name in vain; but here, is it?!  In any case, Orthodox often include prayers and especially hymns from more than one saint-of-the-day, as well as from the season, in Liturgy, similar to what the Tridentine Mass did.)  As Dr. Roman points out in the linked article, this approach too is highly not-Orthodox – and he’s an Eastern Catholic!  Or even a dramatic simplification of the calendar and approach to feasts: for instance, I have no idea what most of this even means, since I have no memory of the Latin Liturgy before Vatican II.  “Semi-double of the Second Class”?!!  Today Latin observances are in order of increasing importance: Commemorations (ie, de-emphasized Optional Memorials during Lent), Optional Memorials, Obligatory Memorials, Feasts, and Solemnities … period.  In fairness, I don’t know what most of the Orthodox Orders of Services I linked to above are talking about either, since I haven’t had a chance to study the finer points of Orthodox Liturgy yet.  But I’ve probably seen or heard it in church, and I know it’s all hugely valued by Orthodox Holy Tradition, so much that if you touch the Liturgy, there’s rioting in the streets of Greece, even deaths … or (successful) mass resistance to Communist-backed “renovationism” in the USSR in the ’20s.  (I never heard that in “History of the Soviet Union” in college!)  And again in fairness, as Fr. Alexander points out, in the Orthodox New Calendar aka Revised Julian, there’s no cycle, it’s completely open-ended, so that it will require updating at the beginning of just about every century by dioceses or jurisdictions or synods.

Long story short, nearly all the world’s Orthodox keep the Traditional Orthodox Paschalion,*** and the overwhelming majority of the world’s Orthodox keep the Traditional Orthodox Calendar aka Julian (though a minority in the Western world), among many, many other reasons, because this Menaion and Paschalion are, mathematically speaking, internally perfect.  They trade one day every 134 years vis a vis the sun and stars and climatic seasons, for the convenience of continuing to follow the Services sanctified by centuries of Orthodox Fathers and Mothers of the Church, Saints, and the All-Holy Spirit of God, without requiring any more novel Hierarchical intervention than necessary (eg, when new Saints are added to the calendar), or the gutting of the calendar or its feasts and Saints (most of the world’s Orthodox treat their Saint’s name-day more importantly than their “birthday according to the flesh”), or of the Liturgical Tradition itself.  And it’s not rare among Orthodox to express doubt that the Lord will delay His Return in Glory long enough to let us seriously worry about Pascha in Northern Autumn – though if He does, there’s always the Southern Hemisphere!  (I guess then they’ll trade kielbasa at the parish Pascha bash after late-night Liturgy, for “shrimps on the barbie“!  Or wait, they’re shellfish and not part of the Fast.  You get what I mean though….)

Think of it computerwise: The raw data are (1) the universal calendar, (2) the elements of the Liturgies (Eucharist, Hours, etc.), (3) a national or regional calendar, and (4) a local calendar.  The Typikon or Ordinarius is/was the database assembled from these raw data.  Holy Tradition is/was the software.  And the annual Ordo’s or other printouts are the output.  Michael Purcell (Orthodox) says his Menologion 3.0 software (both calendars) is ready for download and use on your computer, but generally speaking, the Typikon is in some ways similar to that, and in other ways different, as you could see sampled at the Alaskan and Romanian links above.  To really see it computerwise, a Melkite Catholic priest (Gregorian Calendar) has computerized (5.6 MB) an unofficial software version of his diocese’s typicon for the next 1,000 years(!), and although he says the Hours will be added in a software update expected at the end of next year, the list of options just for Eucharist is more than the Menologion provides, because the Menologion isn’t intended to provide those things.

(*–As well as part of a long-term ongoing attempt to get my head around Orthodox calendar stuff for the sake of explaining it here.)

(**–As they called it a long time ago.)

(***–Metropolitan KALLISTOS [Ware] in The Orthodox Church says Finland’s Orthodox are required by the government to follow the Gregorian Calendar, ie, not even the Revised Julian.  I don’t know why Constantinople’s Estonians do, representing one in eight Orthodox in that country.)

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This was Pope Gregory XIII’s idea of SpringEven in Rome it’s a bit colder than usual right now, according to the Weather Channel.

It’s a shame people in the Midwest had their Good Friday services cancelled owing to the snow in the north and the flooding in the south.  This year Orthodox Pascha (Easter) is 5 weeks later, and so is everything leading up to it – the Great Fast (Lent), Great Holy Week….  Like some Orthodox say, we’re not married to tying this liturgical season to (Northern Hemisphere) Spring.  But ironically, for a good while the Orthodox Paschalion (our scheduling of Easter, Lent, etc.) will continue to tend to do so better than the Gregorian, until in some distant future ours drifts into Northern summer … which will still be more Spring-like than March!  And like some weather expert said, “early Spring” snowstorms aren’t unusual!  So what we have is a technical Spring — scientific? legalistic? “juridical”? ‘outer-space’?! — that alot of people usually experience as still Winter!

Now, Western Easter can occur any time from March 22 to April 25 (NS) inclusive.  So obviously wintry weather becomes less and less of a possibility with each passing day – a phenomenon I believe most people associate with Spring!  For now, Orthodox Pascha can occur any time from April 4 to May 8 (NS) inclusive – 13 days later on average, basically a whole half of a month.  So logically Orthodox Pascha should tend more to reflect the Western-valued association of Lent and Easter with Spring than the West’s own Paschalion!

I’m not making light of the blizzard or accompanying flooding at all, and any deaths, injuries, damages, losses, even inconveniences being suffered.  (God have mercy on them.)  Rather the opposite.  It’s tragic at any time of year, and even moreso during most of these people’s great holiday, the Paschal Triduum, Easter weekend.  Would that they could postpone Easter to a later weekend.

As Orthodox usually do — 1, 4, or 5 weeks later.

Tomorrow is March 17, the feast of St. Patrick of Armagh, Enlightener of Ireland.  Because it’s also Monday of Holy Week for Western Christians (as well as some Eastern Catholics, and Orthodox in Finland and some in Estonia) – the earliest it’s come since 1856 – some towns and churches held St. Patrick’s Day parades and services last week.

Reasons why in Mainstream Media (“MSM”) have often sounded a bit strange.  For instance, a WWW science writer told my local paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a front-page story today, “Easter is determined … by calculating the position of the full moon in the time of Jesus.”  I thought this was strange because I’d never heard it put this way, plus in “higher-critical” Western thinking, we don’t know the exact year of our salvation, so we can’t “calculat[e] the position of the full moon in the time of Jesus.”  Literally seeming to add insult to injury, the paper’s religion writer blamed Easter dating on “a mysterious creation, a historical artifact known as the ‘Paschal full moon.'”  (I won’t bother linking to this story, since the link will break shortly.)

Here’s what they mean though.  I think the science source is actually referring to the fact that the Easter / Pascha formula is an actualization of the Old Testament mandate for Jewish Passover (Exodus 12:6, 14) – which IIUC is no longer followed as strictly by Jews as “in the time of Jesus,” who have ‘standardized’ the dating as we have for use throughout the world in any weather or political situation.  Jewish lunar months begin with the New Moon, and the 14th of each month traditionally marks the Full Moon at the middle of that lunar month.  The 14th day of the month Nisan (aka Abib) was supposed to fall at or less than a month after the Spring Equinox, and would be the first day of Passover, the anniversary of the Lord’s allowing death to all of Egypt’s non-Israelite firstborn (Exodus 12:11-12), as a result of which the Egyptians would literally send the Israelites packing.  The priests used to adjust the calendar each year by visual confirmation of moon and equinox, adding time to the calendar to make this happen, since the revolution of the Moon around the Earth is not synchronized with the revolution of the Earth around the Sun.  (I’ve read that most Muslims still schedule their religious feasts and fasts, such as Eid and Ramadan, this way – which is why they don’t know too far in advance when they will be – although a standardized calendar has been adopted in Saudi Arabia that approximates it but is more convenient for people.)

The canonical Gospels tie the Lord’s passion and death to the start of Passover that year (whether you believe the Last Supper was *the* Passover supper, or the day before, as debated).  They also inform us that He was crucified on a Friday, and rose from the dead on a Sunday (“the third day”).  So before long, many early Christians marked His Resurrection annually on the Sunday after the start of Passover, appropriately enough, and called this *our* Passover feastday – in Hebrew, Peshach or Pesach, in Greek, Pascha.  To celebrate His Resurrection at or before Passover would be, in effect, before He died, which they didn’t consider appropriate.  (Hence a logical, not anti-Jewish, reason for the prescription not to celebrate Pascha “with the Jews,” ie, at the same time as the traditional, Biblical beginning of their Passover – although there also were reasons given of not wanting to continue to associate Pascha too closely with the community that rejected the Messiah.)  So for them it was the Sunday after the full moon at or after the equinox.

The 1st Ecumenical Synod, the Council of Nicea (AD 325), seems to have indirectly mandated this scheme for all Christians, and over the next several centuries this was how it was worked out.  Furthermore, it mandated the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, whose community seemed to major in this, to make the calculation and inform the rest of the Church each year.  As time went on, more-than-yearly notification was embraced to further promote a unified Christian celebration – it took more than three centuries to reach outlying areas like Great Britain and Ireland – requiring some standardization, trading astronomical precision for human convenience, in a time before live streaming webcams (eg, “the moon at Alexandria”), satellites, even telephones!  And the “ecclesiastical full moon” was born.  The Inquirer religion reporter’s source, I believe, for the term “historical artifact” actually uses the term scientifically: an artifact is something made by humans, as opposed to something natural; think of the similarly-derived word artificial.  His use of the phrase “a mysterious creation” is misleading, because as you can see now, there was nothing “mysterious” about it – except perhaps the Orthodox Mystery of Divine guidance of the Fathers of the Church … which I don’t think he’s talking about(!).  Otherwise, it’s only a “mystery” to someone who hasn’t done his homework.*

Also in the picture is that ancient Christianity fixed the ‘official’ date of the equinox at March 21, its traditional Julian Calendar date from before Christ.  The Gregorian Reform of the calendar made sure the observable equinox falls within a day or two of Mar. 21, but since the “Julian” Calendar had more Leap Years than was consistent with keeping the observable equinox on or near Mar. 21, and the Gregorian has fewer Leap Years, the Gregorian has run ahead of the Julian by 13 days now, which is why Western Easter this year is so early, and Orthodox Pascha 5 weeks later: we’re counting different Ecclesiastical Full Moons as the Paschal Full Moon.  And yes, the West still uses EFMs, so they don’t need the live webcam, “the moon at Rome / Geneva / Canterbury / Cleveland, Tennessee / wherever,” and so they too can plan some years in advance, and keep all adherents to the Gregorian Paschalion commemorating Easter on the same date.

(Nearly all Orthodox have rejected this reform – preferring, as St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain said, Orthodox Unity and Tradition, to precision about the sun and moon.  And Metropolitan KALLISTOS [Ware] of Diokleia, in The Orthodox Church, reported that the Finnish government requires Orthodox there to celebrate Easter according to the West [Where do they get off?!!]; I don’t know why Constantinople’s Estonians do so.)

(*–Admittedly, since we Orthodox are always being harassed by Western Christians about our usual difference from them on the dating of “Easter,” I believe these things are discussed, or written about, among Orthodox more than among Westerners.)

IIUC, some say one of the reasons for the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in the West starting in the 1580s, and in favor of the Orthodox New Calendar or “Revised Julian Calendar” starting in the 1920s, was that with the movement of the astronomical Vernal Equinox with respect to the ‘official’ – or what we industrial moderns might call standardized – Vernal Equinox of March 21 (Old Style), is that otherwise Easter or Pascha would, after many, many years (40,000 or something?), “catch up with Christmas” or Nativity.

But I’ve just realized this is not true.  Unless it’s changed by human action, the Great Feast of the Nativity of the Lord will always be on December 25.  It so happens that, unless the Easter / Pascha rules are changed, *it* always falls from March 22 to April 25 inclusive, according to the calendar with which it is being computed – Gregorian for the West, “Julian” for the East (which is why sometimes Orthodox Pascha comes in May according to the New or Gregorian calendars).  And unless changed by some ridiculous human action, April 25 will never catch up with December 25!

What may happen, given alot of time, is that Orthodox Pascha will catch up with Gregorian and New Calendar Nativity/s.  But that’s the fault of the adopters of those newer calendars, right?!*  (Speaking objectively, that is!)

In that time frame though, we would see Pascha in Northern Hemisphere late Fall, and Nativity in NH late Summer or something.  But as an English priest said, Orthodox aren’t really worshiping the seasons.  And besides, Southern Hemisphere Christians are already celebrating these major feasts in different seasons from the North!

A trace of this movement is already seen in New Calendar jurisdictions (like my own, the Greek Archdiocese of America), where the Apostles’ Fast leading up to the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, is currently 13 days shorter than in Old Calendar jurisdictions and parishes – ie, shorter than it used to be – and some years is eliminated by a later Pascha.  In 2100 this will increase to two whole weeks.  Furthermore, while currently Orthodox Pascha usually comes one, four, or five weeks after Western Easter (otherwise, on the same day), in the 25th century it will add *six* weeks to the mix, AD 2698 will be the last year they coincide, and in 2725 it will come *two* weeks later for the first time – illustrating the general long-term thrust as being later than the Western dates.

(*–In the ’20s there was a proposal to change how Orthodox compute Pascha along with the New Calendar, that would remove this risk.  But no Orthodox Synod wanted to change Pascha.)

(And no, this late posting isn’t an example of it; I just read the story in my local newspaper at this late hour!)

February 29, 2100, will not exist on the Gregorian Calendar or the Orthodox New Calendar (aka Revised Julian Calendar), but will on the Orthodox Old Calendar.  Every four years is a Leap Year in the OC no matter what.  So on March 14, 2100 (NS), the Gregorian and NC will run ahead of the OC by one more day, adding up to an even two weeks – 14 days.  Making OC Orthodox lives 1,000 times easier, ISTM: Instead of constantly having to subtract 13 from the ‘common’ date, they’ll be able to just move their finger up two weeks on their wall/desk/Palm calendars!  (Though it’s said many on the OC are pretty good at the subtraction, even across two months!)  And it happens on 3/14 because that’s when the OC will have a date the NC didn’t have.  Got it?  And Old Calendar Christmas, the Nativity of the Lord, will then move to January 8 (NS).

February 29, 2800, will not exist on the Orthodox New Calendar, but will on the OC and Gregorian.  At that point, the Gregorian will be 20 days ahead of OC because the OC will have had 6 more leap years since 2100.  But also, the NC will run ahead of Gregorian by one day: For the Gregorian, the day after Feb. 28 will be Feb. 29, but for the NC, it’ll be March 1!  So then the NC will be an even 3 weeks ahead of the OC.

(It’s late, so if I’ve screwed this up, someone please let me know, OK?)