Friday, September 6, 2013

The First Calendars for 2014 are out and about!

RISU has been documenting in summary fashion in English a recent web-conference with His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. Although I have learned to mistrust these RISU summaries somewhat, nevertheless, I find the one on the issue of Julian vs. Gregorian Calendar  and whether a change of calendars is in the works for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to be of interest. Maybe interest is the wrong word. I was surprised by the reasons His Beatitude gave for being skeptical about the possibility of going over to the civil calendar, the Gregorian.

To my mind the issues concerning calendar are all primarily PASTORAL and fall under two headings: ECUMENISM and EVANGELIZATION.

Sharing the same calendar has important ecumenical ramifications. There is no way getting around it: using different calendars keeps us further apart as Christians. We saw that in the last year as the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land announced their decision to go with the Julian Calendar such that the ever smaller Christian community of the Holy Land could celebrate the great feasts of Christmas and Easter on the same days. The Franciscans did not intend inter-communion or liturgies in common, but rather that families could celebrate at home on the same day. With a divergence of 5 weeks in 2013, we Latins were singing Alleluia as the Byzantine world began its Lenten fast. I can remember being invited to Christian homes in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, struggling to understand why that older brother was Orthodox, that one Latin, that cousin Maronite, and so on, all in the same extended family. Obviously, in the Holy Land there is no other way in marriage to stay Christian than to go ecumenical. At least the traditional Easter foods should be blessed and enjoyed on the same day.

Thankfully, the Christian gene pool in Ukraine is not an issue, but still it would be great if at least calendar did not divide the Latin and Byzantine worlds here. There would be just that much less estrangement if we greeted each other on the same days.

In this Year of Faith, furthering the work of evangelization becomes a real concern. I can see with my own eyes, here in Ukraine, that adhering to the old Julian calendar per se does not impede the evangelization of culture. Perhaps because secularization has so advanced as to damage or at least promote ignorance of the notion of feast, with calendars we can draw the line here or there. Lots of unbaptized people could be won for most any day if they could be won for Christ and His Church. For unbelievers, they can as well be drawn to Christmas whether it be observed on 25 December or 7 January. Even so, I would hazard that if we had the same entries we would probably end up printed on more calendars and perhaps better be known.

I'm wondering if it would really be all that counterproductive from a pastoral point of view to engage folk in the effort to reach a common calendar. The Franciscans, despite having "science and math" on their side, decided to promote family space for feasting. If the Orthodox world were all in agreement when it comes to calendar, I'd be tempted to ask Pope Francis to shelve his predecessor Gregory's contribution to time and eternity. For now, I guess we'll have to await that Orthodox general Council or Synod and hope that their deliberations would be inspired not only by pragmatic concerns but by a pastoral zeal, which is at once ecumenical and bent on evangelization, on winning our world for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.




  1. "The Franciscans, despite having "science and math" on their side, decided to promote family space for feasting." --- Where is faith? I thought faith and reason go together. "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself (Fides et Ratio)" --- are we placing ecumenism before truth? are we accommodating the secular idea of family space for feasting before feasting in knowing the truth? I thought, we Catholics are bearers of truth. A sad reality if for the sake of ecumenism, pastoral or not, we accommodate at the expense of Truth. Christian unity we aspire but is it at the expense of Truth? No need to change calendar. We just need to respect one another.

    1. Maria, I like your comment, but the issue is another one. For Christians family feasting cannot be secular feasting. My understanding of the Franciscan decision in the Holy Land is that it is born of compassion. The Orthodox world is not able at this point to express a common will concerning the calendar issue. How can a Catholic mother, let us say, ask her Orthodox husband, and with their children to join in the traditional Easter dishes when he is supposed to be beginning his fast for Lent?

      Truth is not at stake when it comes to the calendar. For the longest time in the Middle Ages and for good reasons the calendar year began with the Annunciation and culminated practically with Easter. If civil society throughout the world today is Gregorian, it is by choice and convenience. Neither the nut-case calendars of the French Revolution nor of Hitler's regime survived the moment. The remnants of the Soviet secularized calendar are crumbling. My thought is that together we could better and more quickly fill the gap.


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