Not only Catholics

Why, in answer to Christmas greetings is not necessary to answer: “are You Catholics?”, and that is celebrated on December 25 eleven Orthodox Churches.

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Every year on the eve of the 24th of December again, the voices of Orthodox impatient: “I Want Christmas! The whole world will celebrate the holiday, and we again have a lean New year and miss the rest of spring break: January 7, only to Wake up after a night of service, and tomorrow.”

Long vacation, by the way, appeared not so long ago: the first extended weekend before Christmas in 2005, and since 90-ies in Russia was celebrated only 1, 2 and 7 January.

But the most devastating argument: not only Catholics! Eleven local Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on December 25.

What is the Local Orthodox Church?

The Orthodox Church has no single legal and spiritual head, and proclaims the spiritual equality of all bishops. Today it consists of 15 local Autocephalous Churches, that is, self-selecting their Primate, and three Autonomous Churches — that is broadly self-government. Important issues of the Orthodox Church decides, calling the local or Ecumenical Councils.

Some Local Churches celebrate Christmas on December 25?

They are really a lot. Constantinople, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece (Greek), Alexandria, Antioch, Albanian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia and the Orthodox Church in America celebrate Christmas on December 25.

In the night from 6 on 7 January, together with the Russian Orthodox Church Christmas is celebrated in the monasteries of mount Athos, and Jerusalem, Serbian, Georgian and Polish Orthodox Churches.

Why did this happen?

The events that led to this happened in the 20-ies of the last century. They are associated with the activities of Metropolitan Meletios (Metaxakis), which in a short time managed to visit three Primate of the Autocephalous Churches and conducted a series of reforms, trying to change the fundamentals of Orthodox ecclesiology.

Known for her modernist views and open communication with representatives of Western Churches, the reformer Metaxakis for violation of the canons in December 1921, was banned by the Synod of the Greek Church.

But the decision of the Synod was abolished, and Metropolitan Meletius in January 1922 became the Patriarch of Constantinople.

In June 1923 in Istanbul Metaxakis convened the so-called “pan-Orthodox Congress”, which was made the decision to change the calendar of the Orthodox Church. This was done contrary to the decrees of the Great councils of 1583, 1587 and 1593 years and has led to tragic consequences.

However, the pan-Orthodox Congress can be called only conditionally. It was attended by representatives of only three local Churches of Greece, Romania and Serbia. Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria Patriarchate, refused to participate. The Russian Orthodox Church was going through hard times, in the middle was split. Other local Orthodox Churches yet existed.

The transition to the new calendar occurred primarily in Greece and has caused not only a split within the Church, divided believers, the old Calendarists and the new Calendarists, but even led to bloodshed dissatisfied with the decision of the Council the believers defeated the residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople. And of Meletius was forced not only to renounce Patriarchy, but to leave Istanbul.

Why is part of the Church is according to the Gregorian calendar as the Roman Catholics?

To think so is wrong. Even at the Council of Constantinople in 1923, the congregation was worried that the calendar reform may be wrongly perceived as coming from the Pope.

Therefore, for calculation of fixed holidays there was a special calendar – revised Julian, who is eleven local Churches. This calendar is a modification of the Julian, but before February 28 of the year 2800 will be identical to the Gregorian, though built on a more complex calculation. 900-year cycle it takes 7 days unlike the Gregorian calendar that takes 3 days for 400 years.

The revised Julian calendar was developed by the Serbian astronomer and mathematician, Professor at Belgrade University by Milutin Milankovitch in 1924.

However, the calculation of the Paschal all the local Churches, except for the Finnish Orthodox Church is conducted today according to the Julian calendar.

Why was the Russian Orthodox Church joined the Council decision of 1923?

Just joined, but out of necessity. 15 Oct 1923 revised Julian calendar was formally under rigid pressure of the authorities, introduced by Patriarch Tikhon.

But it has caused such dissent within the Church and among believers that after 24 days the Patriarch ordered to postpone the introduction of a new style in Church use.

We can say that this was done for the sake of peace within the community of believers. Thus, to the faithful themselves the old Church calendar traditions in Soviet times was an act of faith.

Eleven local Churches – a lot or a little?

When we compare eleven Churches, with four difference seems significant.

The Russian Orthodox Church has more than 120 million believers, and about 8-10 million goes to Serbs, dispersed throughout the world, 4 million Orthodox Christians in Georgia, about 1 million in Poland and a small part in Greece, on mount Athos and in Jerusalem. In very rough calculations 136 million Orthodox Christians follow the old style.

They are contrasted with the Church of Greece, which is 9 million believers of Constantinople – 3.5 million, the largest Romanian Orthodox Church has about 19 million Orthodox in Bulgaria, they are 6 million of Antioch, the Cypriot, Albanian, Alexandria and Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia together account for approximately 3 million believers. Together, these Churches comprise no more than 40 million believers who adhere to the revised Julian calendar.

It turns out that in a quantitative sense, Orthodox Christians celebrating Christmas on December 25, not more than 30%.

By the way, in 2014 an unprecedented event happened. The Polish Orthodox Church canceled the decision of 1924 on the introduction of the “new style”. The Church, completely integrated in public and political life of Europe, returned to the old.

The fact that the decision of the Council in 1924 for the majority of parishes are in fact not implemented. Probably at the time of receipt of the autocephaly of the Orthodox poles were persecuted authority, and the decision on transition to the revised Julian calendar was forced.

As believers live in different jurisdictions? Not occur if they have problems because of the calendar?

To say that problems not at all – it would be a deceit. The most illustrative example is America, where live representatives of almost all local Churches. But for the Russian Orthodox in America, the problems are connected not with “how to fast in the New year”, and to a greater extent so, where to go.

The small number of large parishes and their distance from each other – quite a serious argument in the question of jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church. Is that in the whole region barely have one Orthodox Church, and he is not your Local Church. It’s as if a resident of the southern Butovo, and Kaluga, to pray at the divine Liturgy and take communion, would have every time to go to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra.

Although Orthodox in Alaska follow the old calendar, as well as some Local Churches of America, most of the local Churches in the United States and even some parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in the USA Christmas is celebrated on December 25.

Many Orthodox in America celebrate Church holidays twice. The reason for this flexibility is not only the remoteness and the dispersion of the parishes, but also the place of work of believers. If the celebration according to the new style falls on a weekend, for example, and old style it falls on a weekday, for the sake of service people prefer to celebrate new style.

On the other hand, many urban parishes of the Orthodox Church in America on the West coast of the continent celebrate Christmas on both calendars. This is due to the large number of Russian immigrants and is especially popular in the regions where there is no ROCOR parishes.

Not only that, the arrival of the American city of Tacoma, for example, at Christmas the old service come the Palestinians. So part of the service is generally sung in Arabic. In short, in America calendar use quite flexibly.

Despite the presence in Moscow of the farmsteads of the local Churches, they remain parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate with representatives of the local Churches as pastors. So they will celebrate in the old style. New Calendarist Orthodox Church in Moscow, you are unlikely to find.

If you are invited to celebrate December 25, agree?

To solve, of course, you. If you live in the USA and rent an apartment from the parishioners of the American Orthodox Church, then rest assured, they will invite you to their holiday table on December 25 and will offer traditional Christmas eggnog is a drink based on eggs.

Invitation to Christmas – a widespread tradition. In all Orthodox countries it is believed that on this day, no one should be alone, and to call for Christmas brother in Christ – of course.

How to treat the idea of switching to a new calendar?

With caution. The recent proposal to switch to a new style of sound often from politicians. However, it seems that no one Church Cathedral is not complete without a discussion of the calendar, however, whenever the decision on this issue is set aside for the preservation of peace. The transition to the new calendar is unlikely to be seen by the whole Church “Bang”, but the fact that it can split a society is possible.

Is there anything common in the celebration of Christmas the local Churches?

Very much.

In the parish of St. Vladimir’s Seminary in the USA before Christmas usually ads appear on the preparation for the holiday, including for the feast. All believers are invited to the Vilia (from the word Vigil, the vigil), or Holy supper/Holy Night (Holy Supper, Christmas Eve), which takes place in the refectory of the temple.

This Lenten gala dinner shared between many Christians in the Eastern part of the world, including Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and some regions of Russia, but called the meals will be on your way. Now it’s quite a popular tradition in many American parishes.

As the festive all-night vigil begins at 19 o’clock in the evening, the dinner suit about 17 hours. This allows the faithful together to enjoy a meal and leaves for the priests time to rest before worship.

Table Vilija make hay – it symbolizes the humble stable where Christ was born. At the table is served one additional seat for Christ, some say that this is the place for the traveler or stranger, in whose image He may be.

Put on the table 12 dishes – a symbol of the twelve disciples of Christ. The meal begins with a pungent foods (garlic) and ends with sweet desserts with honey. This sequence symbolizes the transition from the world without Christ to the world with Christ.

All the food served on the table, carnival and exclude dairy products and eggs. Of course, the regions have their own features, but typically, a traditional meal includes wine, garlic, rye bread and salt, root vegetables, mushrooms, corn, cabbage, legumes, fish, dried fruit, poppy seeds, honey and nuts.

Traditionally, the youngest child announces the appearance of the first star in the night sky, as if proclaiming the coming of the light in world of darkness. The meal begins with prayers and the breaking of the bread. Deceased family members are commemorated at this time – the prayers of those who are involved in the dinner. Eating dinner by candlelight. Festival continues with Worship and greeting each other with shouts of “Christ is born! Praise Him!”.

Not without Christmas carols, though they are not sung in all the churches. The Serbs in this respect are quite modest, but the Bulgarians right after Christmas the whole satisfied with the ethnic festivals carolers.

Almost all the local Churches on Christmas light candles. Where they put the icons somewhere in the candle holders on the tables, in Georgia they put on the Windows. But wherever you put a candle, it always symbolizes “the light of Christ which illumines all.”

No matter how hot nor was the debate about calendars, Christmas is not a calendar event and certainly not something that we have to choose. It is not a holiday only for the Orthodox or the Catholics, it is not a holiday only children. He is not for the elite. Christmas for all, for all mankind. This is the main point of events that occurred more than two thousand years ago, when the world came to the Savior, opening through the birth of otherness.

The author is grateful hieromonk Ignaty (Shestakov) and Olga, kirilchenko for the help in material preparation

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