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April 25, 2010

Old Calendarism and the Monastery of Esphigmenou (Elder Theoklitos Dionysiatis)

The Resurrection of Christ was considered and continues to be considered by many as a fable, due to a lie that was said by a small number of Jews. When the soldiers of the guard brought the incredible news of the Resurrection to the archpriests, they in turn gave them large sums of money and instructed them to say that “while we were asleep, His disciples came and stole His Body”. And the Evangelist Matthew adds: “And this claim has been perpetuated by the Jews to this day”. One major lie passed on into history. We encounter many such lies in world history.

It was also a lie that gave birth to Old Calendarism, which, to this day, continues to undermine the work of Orthodoxy, through the influence that these schismatics exert on naïve Christians. And what is this lie? The lie is that two Local Synods, under Patriarch Jeremiah II, in 1583 and 1593, which had been convened in order to condemn the audacious invalidation of the Oros (term) of the First Ecumenical Synod regarding the celebration of Holy Pascha, an invalidation which had been adopted by the Papacy, and also supposedly condemned the Calendar change. And how was this lie concocted?

Thanks to a forgery by an early zealot, Jacob of New Skete (Neasketiotes), to the manuscript of the code of the Holy Monastery of Saint Panteleimon, No. 772!

By using these supposed anathemas as scare tactics, the cunning zealots of the Holy Mountain were supposed to intimidate the naïve Christians. And the schism was based on this lie, in the same way that all schisms stem from absurdities, forgeries and frauds that are used to deceive those who are gullible or ignorant.

In brief, we can say that the history of the Old Calendarist schism is straightforward. After the end of World War I, ca. 1919, the Orthodox nations of the East had, for economic reasons (wishing to promote commerce), desired to adjust the Julian Calendar to the so-called Gregorian one, which preceded it by 13 days. In Greece also, we encountered such “fermentations” that were prepared by the governments of that era, which were aimed at convincing the Church accordingly. The Church however refused to abandon the Julian Calendar. But the rebellious government of Plastiras, despite the objections of the Church, proceeded by Royal Decree to establish the Julian calendar, adjusted by 13 days. Thus, the presence of two calendars caused problems. For this reason the State Church of Greece, in agreement with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the other Orthodox Churches, accepted this Revised Julian Calendar. And thus the 10th of March 1924 was renamed as the 23rd, while the Pascha celebration dates remained unchanged.

This is the whole story. It was natural that this change would cause a disorder and confusion in the people’s conscience. Those however who had some common sense accepted the explanation that had been given and calmed down, since Orthodoxy had not become de-natured, either in its dogma or in its traditions. Those however who were overcome by a spirit of distrust and in their latent egotism suffered from the syndrome of: “even if you convince me, you will not convince me”, would kick up a fuss, claiming that the Church had supposedly fallen into heresy. Thus the phenomenon of “Old Calendarism” was created. This was nothing new for the Church; after all, we encounter plenty of other such schisms in Her history, which had been caused for trivial reasons, such as that of the “Old Paschites” (a paschal schism of the early Church), for example.

The 5,000 – 6,000 monastics of the Holy Mountain, after examining the issue in extreme detail, were led to the conclusion that the Orthodox Faith had not been hurt by the Calendar change, although for various other reasons they decided to continue to observe the Old Calendar, without however severing ecclesiastical relations with the Local Churches which had taken the leap of 13 days, acknowledging them as being equally Orthodox. A large enough number of monks, outside the environment of the monasteries, became “zealots”, while a few hieromonks left for the cities where they were to preach that the addition of 13 days that the Church had accepted was heresy; without taking into consideration the fact that the Church would not have agreed to innovate, had the State not acted in haste without consulting the Church and proceeded to innovate, with the resulting confusion of having two calendars.

I write these things in relation to the issue of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, for those who ask. Already in a previous article, I have replied to these points. Here, I will repeat that the Holy Athonite Community respects the zealots’ freedom of conscience and tolerates them, even though they are schismatics and, according to the Holy Mountain’s Charter, should be expelled from the Holy Mountain.

The case of the Esphigmenou Monastery however is different. The Esphigmenite zealots may stay in the Holy Mountain. However, they are not allowed to stay inside an Establishment of the Holy Community. They must: either agree with all Holy Monasteries or disagree, in which case, as schismatics, they must leave of their own accord.

Yesterday I received a letter from a friend of mine who wrote that the Prior of the Monastery of Esphigmenou, in an interview given to a state TV station, had said: “When Athenagoras was Patriarch, we had the fiery articles of the Elder Theokletos Dionysiates. Now that these things are happening, he remains silent”.

I do not know the present Prior. I did know, however his predecessor Euthymios, as I also wrote in a previous article in the newspaper “Orthodox Press”. In this case, however, it is my duty to reply to the Prior’s puzzlement. It is true that I used to write fiery articles (all of them together being the size of a large book) against the Pro-Papist statements of Athenagoras. Today what can I write about? That many people out of ignorance interpret the various social relations and meetings of the current Patriarch with the Papists as co-officiating and common prayer? There was a lot of talk about Ravenna. If, despite the explicit warning that had been given that only Orthodox should come forward for Holy Communion, certain Papists did not take heed and despite this warning, proceeded to receive Communion, does this mean that the Patriarch did this on purpose? We must be very careful before we accuse our ecclesiastical leaders that they are supposedly ecumenists just because present-day conditions may lead them to meet with, be amiable towards, or courteous to the heterodox.

I wish they had been there to see the extremely Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostom II, who had truly waged a war against Athenagoras, address the Anglican Archbishop inside the Metropolitan Temple or accept an honourable salutation by an Armenian cleric. What would those who protest and condemn Patriarch Bartholomew as an ecumenist say then? I also read in the “Orthodox Press”, but also received this statement in person, of a protest regarding Esphigmenou, signed by five Christian associations who are not Old Calendarist. So, are these people moved by the possibility that the Esphigmenite zealots might be removed from the Holy Establishment, but are not concerned with or feel sad about their fallacy, with the fact that they are schismatics or with the fact that they are exposing Orthodoxy’s radiance? They want to believe that they are guardians of Orthodoxy; but in that case, why don’t they take care to preserve its truth from alterations which stem from irresponsibility or exaggeration? Either the Esphigmenites are deceived and must be helped, so that they can come to their senses, or they are Orthodox, in which case the members of these five associations should follow them in their beliefs. Do they believe that St. Mark of Ephesus or Gregory Palamas would protect them, now that the Esphigmenites are cutting asunder (schism) the Church? Do they know that Gregory Palamas had suggested to the Elders of the Holy Monastery of Lavra not to coenobise Akindynus, simply because he showed some indications of holding on to some fallacious beliefs? Let those of the five associations read my book “St. Gregory Palamas” and the reprint of the Archbishop of Athens Chrysostom I, entitled “Examination of the Calendarist Accusations”. Let them also read the doctorate thesis of the present Archbishop of Athens, in order to see in what way a series of lies and frauds had been built from that original lie, as the devout Gervasios Paraskevopoulos had written to me.

I wrote this elsewhere and I will repeat it here as well. Back in 1965, when Kontoglou, Archbishop Chrysostom and I, were all of us fighting Athenagorism, the Prior who preceded the present one, called Euthemios, came to our Monastery and was ordained a Deacon and then a Priest, acquiring his zealotist mindset. Why? Five years later, he turned once again into a zealot. Why? Perhaps because he read that Athenagoras had made Pro-Papist statements in public? When he was being ordained by the hands of a pro-Athenagoras bishop, did he not know this? Had he not commemorated Athenagoras for five whole years? This is what zealotry is!

The Russian Nicetas Struve, in his book, “Russia Today” writes: “Something for which Russia has no reason to be jealous of America, is the presence of approximately fifty heresies in Russia going under the name of G.O.C. [Genuine Orthodox Christians]!” So, is this our sensitivity towards Orthodoxy? Instead of protesting in favour of the deceived ones who, as schismatics, are losing their soul, since not even the blood of martyrdom can wash out schism, the correct action would be for us to enlighten them so they can return to the Church of Christ, abandoning their para-churches. I say these things, because many people ask for my opinion, being one of the older Hagiorites who has seen many things.

With the love of Christ,
Theoklitos Dionysiatis, monk
Holy Mountain

Source: Newspaper “Orthodox Press”, 28 February 2003