Monday, September 13, 2010

The Spiritual Insignificance of the Church Calendar


Two Narrations on the Old Calendar vs. New Calendar Controversy By the Blessed Elder Cleopa Ilie of Romania:

First Narration On Why the Calendar Is Not Holy

The thing that happened once to a priest here, Calistrat Bobu, my God! He was a very good priest. Very good. But one day he dropped by to see a nun who was living in the forest (as at that time there were about fifty hermits living in the woods around here) and she told this young priest:

“Holy Grace doesn’t descend upon you people, because you have shifted to the New Calendar!”

Father Calistrat came back home and told our Elder. My Elder back then was from the Holy Mountain, Hieroschemamonk Ioanichie, from whom I received tonsure. He was the kind of monk that would only eat on Saturdays and Sundays, and during the rest of the week — nothing. On Sundays, he would only ask me: “Would you happen to have a little bit of cabbage juice and a bit of wheat broth?”

For twenty years he served the Holy Liturgy all by himself and took strength only through the Holy Eucharist. When the calendar was adjusted, he fasted for twenty-three days. He didn’t taste anything, until the Holy Three Hierarchs showed themselves to him and told him to listen to the Church! To keep the calendar as our Church would!

So one day this Father, Calistrat Bobu, was performing the service. I was a sexton back then. Now, every time our Elder would prepare the Holy Communion bread, it was white and sweet, while the one that Fr. Calistrat would prepare would always taste sour and have a greenish tinge. I asked our Superior:

"Elder, why is it that when Fr. Calistrat serves, his Communion bread is greenish and sour?"

"My boy, it’s because he serves with doubt in his heart! He’s been to see that mad woman, Isidora, who stirred up so many troubles in the monastery already, and she told him that the grace of the Holy Spirit doesn’t descend because of the calendar change. And I told him he would get into trouble because of doubting that the Holy Spirit descends!"

As I said, I was a sexton then. As Fr. Calistrat got to the point where he would invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit – lo and behold! – he saw the Lamb bread turning into meat and blood was running on the Holy Diskos and on the Holy Antimension. And when he looked into the chalice, he saw blood. He called to me:

"Costică! Come over here, son! What do you see?"

"Oh, Father! It’s turned into meat and blood! Our Superior told you that you would get into trouble if you lose faith in the calendar, because the calendar is neither a holy thing, nor a dogma! It’s just a 'clock' to measure time. It’s already been canonically adjusted a few times until now."

When our Elder came, he asked for the Book of Psalms to be read.

"Well now! Do you believe that the Holy Spirit comes down and turns the Sacraments holy?"

"Forgive me, Father!" And he fell to his knees.

"Look! The Holy Spirit has come! It’s turned into meat! It’s turned into blood! Do you have any more doubts now, Father?"

"I believe it, Father, forgive me!"

"Come on now — and let’s collect the Holy Mysteries!"

And he took a chisel and made a hole into the leg of the Holy Table – because the Holy Table is our Lord’s grave – and he buried the Sacraments in there. And he sanctified the chalice again and washed it and the Holy Antimension and everything else at the holy water place. And we stayed there until the whole Book of Psalms was read, all of it - four hours in all - and then he started the Liturgy from the Holy Proskomedi: “And one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side,…”; and continued from there. And he carried out the Holy Liturgy and the incident didn’t repeat.

"You see? Do you believe it now?"

"I believe it, Father!"

Our Elder gave him a 40-day penance.

“Why don’t you believe it when I tell you to, and instead, you go to old women to teach you about the calendar?” This was in 1932. I was here in the summer of 1932. I came to this place in 1929.


Second Narration On Why the Calendar Is Not Holy

Father, what’s going on with the folks in Slătioara? They say we’ve sold out our faith.

Stylists [Old Calendarists] are defrocked by the Holy Synod, because they care more about the calendar than about the dogmas of our Church and thus have fallen away from obedience.

The Stylists also boast that they have true faith and we don’t.

They have pride and disobedience in that faith. In the summer of 1992, the Elder of the Xeropotamou Monastery [Mount Athos], together with a few monks, visited Romania and toured the whole country while carrying the Holy Cross – a cross that was made in the fifth century by Emperor Martian and Empress Pulcheria – which preserves in it a large part of our Savior’s cross. And I kissed the Holy Cross, which had been stained with the blood of Christ. Twice, I kissed it.

The monks in Mount Athos follow the Old Calendar. Why didn’t they visit the Stylists in Slătioara and instead, they only visited our New Calendar Orthodox monasteries?

They went to many places in our country, and all the monks of the Holy Mountain follow the Old Calendar; they cursed the ones in Romania that still followed the Old Style. As Athonite monks, they didn’t break their obedience to the Church. They follow the Old Calendar but they listen to the Holy Synod of Greece* – and Greeks have all been New Calendar followers since 1924. They do not ordain deacons, priests, churches, they don’t do anything without the approval of their Holy Synod. And they told me: “Tell the Stylists in your country that they are heretics. They started to build their monasteries and churches without the permission of your Holy Synod.”

Why, wasn’t I there myself, at the Holy Mountain? Didn’t I perform the holy services with them? The Old Calendar people here won’t do that with us, but the monks of Mount Athos sure did! We partook in the Eucharist with them. They consider the Old Calendar folks in our country as pagans. These folks have remained just as the Lipovans of Russia here [in Romania]!

The calendar isn’t a holy thing! I went and held a speech about that when our Metropolitan was enthroned in Iaşi. There were Bishops and Metropolitans gathered there, yet they asked [unworthy] me to speak — in the refectory, where there were so many officials! I spoke for almost an hour.

The next day I spoke at the Faculty of Theology in Iaşi and I showed them how the Old Calendar had already been adjusted until now. I showed them the year, the month, the time, and how, when it falls behind again – as the Pedalion says – it will be adjusted again. The calendar is a mere time-keeper.

Are we going to argue about a calendar, now? Is it worth it?

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