January 25, 2010

Elder Philotheos Zervakos on the Calendar Issue

Elder Philotheos seems to have gone back and forth on the issue of the Calendar, but in reality this depended on who he was addressing and the circumstance, since he was a pastor and approached it pastorally. He claimed and advocated a certain transcendence above the issue, favoring neither the Old Calendarists nor the New Calendarists, because he believed both were being irresponsible and at mutual fault for the schism. By transcending the issue he sought unity for the Church in Greece, and after this issue could be transcended he advocated a return to the Old Calendar, not because he favored it but as a source of unity and compromise. He believed that since this controversy came about with the introduction of the New Calendar, that we should return to the Old Calendar and unify. This is to be looked at as an opinion the holy elder admirably held as he faced his particular circumstance in his particular time. Of course, things are a lot more complicated than he presented them, however the issue of division goes a lot deeper than the calendar, since even today most canonical churches follow the Old Calendar and there are similar issues which divide them as well. The following excerpts reveal thoughts he often repeated in his letters on this issue.

Excerpts from various letters of Elder Philotheos Zervakos on the Calendar issue:

- Neither Christ nor the Holy Apostles or our Holy Fathers have ever taught us that calendars will save us. They taught us that faith and good works will save us.

- Neither the Faith nor the Mysteries were tampered with, nor did those who followed the New Calendar become Franks and unbelievers.

- He who believes and is baptized in Christ will be saved, and not the one who believes in the calendar, the chronometer.... What is detrimental is when there is no concordance in the Faith, in Baptism, in the Divine Rites and the other Mysteries.

- Calendars do not save man; the saints themselves were sanctified by pleasing God through Faith, and not through the calendars.

- The calendar is not God, nor do all the laws hang from it.

- Nowhere in the Holy Bible has the Lord mentioned that the Old Calendar will save us. Who of the Holy Apostles and Fathers had preached calendars?

- We must not believe that Orthodoxy and Christianity are dependent on the calendar, and that without it, there is no salvation. The calendar is not God, it is a tradition; furthermore, the Gospel itself does not say anything about calendars. The Saints of our Church were not sanctified through the calendar - the old nor the new - they were sanctified through their holy faith and through their good works which shone like the sun.

- Those who believe and are convinced that without the calendar the Holy Spirit is unable to consummate the Mysteries are not only heretics and deluded, they are also date-worshippers and time-worshippers.

- When Christ came to this world, He did not preach calendars. Let them show us in which chapter or verse of the Gospel Christ says that the calendar will save us. Whosoever of the Old Calendarists believes that the calendar is equivalent and superior to the Holy Spirit, and that the Mysteries are consummated by the calendar, these unfortunate ones have been deceived and are committing a sin.

- God does not punish people over calendars, but over their sins and their malice.

- God brought on the Flood, burnt the cities of Sodom for the sins of those people and NOT for any calendars; and all the punishments that humanity suffers are not for any calendar, but because lawlessness has multiplied and love has frozen.

- The issue of the calendar is not the most important, because it is neither God nor faith, nor does the salvation of man depend upon it...(for example, Paul, Cornelius, Tabitha, etc). All those who were saved and those who will be saved, will be saved by their faith in God, their love and their good works.

- They [Old Calendarists] are divided into many and disagreeing groups, where the one does not accept the other. They hold fast to the calendar, but they shun the capital of all virtues: love.

- I am against the thoughtless and illegal introduction of the New Calendar and for over 50 years I have been struggling for the return to the Old Calendar - not because I believe that I will be saved through the calendar alone, but for the sake of peace and harmony in the Church.

- Our Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples: "Go forth into the world, preach the gospel to all of mankind; whosoever is baptized will be saved, and he who disbelieves will be reproached" (Mark 16:15), and "Go forth and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to uphold everything that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19). He told them to preach the Gospel - not the Old Calendar - and also stressed that it is the one who believes and is baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, not in the calendar. I struggle and shall continue to struggle until my last breath for the return of harmony and peace in the Church. Even the 318 Holy God-bearing Fathers who had established and passed on to us the Julian calendar did not say "we are passing on this calendar so that you can be saved, and that without it, the Mysteries will be invalid..."! They delivered it to us so that all Christians can celebrate the feast of Pascha on the same day.

- Dear..., because it is my wish to benefit you, I beg you to tell me, who gave you the title that says you are a "Genuine" Christian? Was it our Lord Jesus Christ? I do not believe so, because the Lord taught His disciples that even when doing everything that they can, they should still call themselves "wretched servants", as they only did what they were obliged to do. The Holy Apostles were humble and would call themselves "the least of", while the topmost of the disciples - who had ascended to the third Heaven - had said: "I am the least of the Apostles, the abortion of nature" and that "Christ came to the world to save sinners, among whom I am the first."

- The Lord taught humility, to everyone, and to us. "Learn from Me", He said, "that I am meek and humble at heart and your souls shall find rest". Pride was taught and is still being taught by the most cunning and most wicked devil. And that is precisely why our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to learn humility and to beseech Him every day, by saying; "Lord, do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one".

- Moreover, whatever opinions and decisions you may have copied from the Pedalion of the Church, the Holy Ecumenical Synods and the God-bearing Fathers, all are totally irrelevant to the Old Calendar, given that the Holy Ecumenical Synods were not convened for the Old Calendar but for other matters. The Holy Ecumenical Synods were convened from 325 to 783 A.D., whereas the change in the calendar took place in 1924. No Ecumenical Synod has ever convened for the sake of the Old or the New Calendar; only the First Ecumenical Synod had determined the details regarding the celebration of Pascha - a stipulation which, according to the opinion of many teachers of our Church, albeit not observed, nevertheless does not affect the Faith. The divine Chrysostom, who was a prominent figure soon after the First Ecumenical Synod, says, "The Church of Christ is not interested in the precision of years and the observation of days, because whenever one eats this life-giving Bread and drinks from this chalice, he denounces the death of the Lord and effectuates Pascha". And Saint Nicodemus, the interpreter of the sacred canons says: "Christ and the Church were not preoccupied with such an observation of times and days, but only with harmony and peace". Why then are you invoking Holy Synods and Holy Fathers who were prominent a thousand years ago, in order to support your fallacy regarding the Old Calendar, which you are worshipping like God - if not more than Him, given that you admit and believe that without the Old Calendar the Mysteries are invalid? This can only mean that you believe that for the Holy Spirit to validate a Mystery, He must also have the holy Old Calendar as His assistant!!! Woe to such fallacy and wretchedness!!

- While you call the Old Calendar "Holy", you call the New, "Baal". But the Old Calendar consists of days, as does the New. The Lord created all days, and all of them are good and holy. Why therefore are you calling the ones holy and good, while the others you call Baal and bad? Apparently, your fanaticism and animosity has clouded your logic and you cannot sense what you are saying...We worship the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, a Trinity of one essence and indivisible, and we also believe and worship the true God and Creator of everything and it is Him that we kneel before, albeit sinners. You however...you also kneel before and worship the Old Calendar as God. But a Christian's true confession is to believe that which is defined in the Holy Creed of our Faith...The holy Creed does NOT define that we should ALSO believe in an Old Calendar, which had been invented by the idolater Sosigenes and established by the equally idolatrous emperor Julius Caesar, and that without the Old Calendar there can be no salvation.

- Did you think that by preserving the Old Calendar you have preserved the Law in its entirety, and that you are a "Genuine" Orthodox because in your opinion "the Law and the Prophets all hang from" the Old Calendar? Should you however, as a logical and prudent person, carefully consider how you are disrespecting other traditions of our Holy Church, as well as your disobedience to God's law and His commandments, and your disobedience to the counsels and the admonitions of your Spiritual Father, you will see that they are a camel, and that by comparison, the calendar issue is a mosquito. Woe to you, for dissecting the mosquito while swallowing the camel whole. For the last time, listen to what is being said. The end for all of us is nearing; we will all depart after a short time and will find ourselves standing before the Impartial and Fair Judge to account for our actions and He will examine us, not for having preserved any calendar but for having kept His commandments, for having have done good works, benevolent deeds, and for having kept the Faith.

- Understand your fallacy, dear...; repent and become humble and do not boast about calendars, as though you too are a Confessor. The holy Apostles, holy Martyrs and holy Fathers became saints, not for the sake of Old and New Calendars, but because of their fervent faith and their wholehearted love for the Crucified and sweetest Jesus Christ, our God.

- It appears that you have the conviction that the Old Calendar forgives everything, fornication, adultery, envy, slander, lies, criticism and all the other sins.

- Christ, the Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers did not ordain that the forgiveness of sins be provided through the Old Calendar, but only when the sinner becomes aware of his sins, confesses them with contrition and solemnity to the spiritual priest, comes to despise them and decides thereafter - as much as he can - to not sin again, and only then will absolution be provided, whereas you, a monk, forgives the sins of people, provided they observe the Old Calendar.

Saint Philotheos of Paros - Issue No. 2 - May-Aug 2001. Orthodoxi Kipseli publications.