The cornerstone or central argument in any apology for the old style is the reference to the decision of the First Ecumenical Council to celebrate Easter. The reference to this decision is almost always accompanied by an author’s interpretation, which in any case should reinforce in readers the suggestion that the new style grossly violates this rule and even this fact alone is enough to put us outside the Church. To this summary many apologists of the old style allow themselves to add additional arguments and interpretations, namely that the decree was created primarily to prohibit the celebration of Easter with non-believers, and the purpose of the new style was to join us with them. But is that really the case?
Perhaps many who were interested in the question were impressed that all the apologies of the old style refer to the decisions of the First Ecumenical Council, but they never quote this decision, but rely on the 7th Apostolic Rule! However, the rules of the Holy Apostles, although they reflect the aspirations of the age and some debates of the First Ecumenical Council, are not rules of the Council, but something completely different! It is too manipulative to put a sign of identity between the two, as many do in bad faith. Rule number 7 of the First Ecumenical Council treats a completely different problem from rule 7 of St. Apostles. It is worth clarifying here that the so-called “Apostolic Rules” are not the work of the apostles themselves, but they are seen as the bearer of the early tradition of the Church and from the first centuries they had great authority, which, of course, helped and the First Ecumenical Council. And if we are to be completely accurate, and in order to avoid further speculation about the canons of this council, it is necessary to say clearly that the First Ecumenical Council did not leave a single canon about the celebration of Easter! That is, every time apologists of the old style refer in their texts to some rule of the First Ecumenical Council, which obviously tries to clothe their accusations of the new style with the authority of this highest forum of the Church, they definitely lie to us. . What was discussed and decided at the council, but without being formulated in a rule or canon, is about the celebration of Easter by all churches in one day, and not, as was the practice until then, different churches to use their own calculations and to celebrate on different days. This is clear from the message that Emperor Constantine the Great sent to the bishops who were not present at the First Ecumenical Council.
The seventh rule of the Holy Apostles states: “A bishop, presbyter, or deacon who celebrates the holy day of the Passover before the vernal equinox with the Jews must be deposed.”
It is obvious that this rule has to do with the debates during the First Ecumenical Council, but to claim that it is a rule of the Ecumenical Council itself is, to put it mildly, incorrect. But the apologists of the old style are not at all ashamed to do so, moreover, referring to this rule, they try to interpret it in a way that is beneficial to their thesis, but far from the truth. Relying on Zonara’s definite misinterpretation: “.. The whole commandment of this rule boils down to the following: Christians should not celebrate the Passover with the Jews, ie. not on the same day with them; as their non-holiday celebration must precede and then celebrate our Easter.
A priest who fails to do so must be overthrown. The same is defined by the Council of Antioch in its first rule, mentioning that the definition of the Passover is the definition of the First Council of Nicaea. ” If we make a brief historical overview, we will be able to see for ourselves the wrong rubbing of Zonara and again the complete unfoundedness of the accusations of canonical violations of the so-called new style.
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself took part in the Jewish celebrations during His earthly life, as evidenced in the Gospel (John 2: 13-25; 5: 1-47). His example after the Ascension was followed by the apostles (Acts 2: 1; 20:16). This example was adopted by the early Church, so the first Christians celebrated Easter on Nisan 14, the same day that the Jews celebrated their Passover. This practice has long existed in the Roman province of Asia, and for this reason Christians were called the Fourteenth. Many of the other churches underwent the first Passover reform, and they began celebrating on the first Sunday after Nisan 14. This reform was not a theological interpretation of the feast, but rather a precision of the historical fact of the Resurrection, since Christ is resurrected on the “first day after the Sabbath” (Matt. 28: 1), that is, on Sunday.
It is interesting to note that the difference became the subject of discussion between St. Polycarp of Smyrna and Bishop Anicet of Rome during St. Polycarp’s visit to Rome in 155. your own understanding of the holiday. However, this difference did not lead to a rift between the two churches (as some of the apostates are hasty today), but on the contrary, taking into account their differences, the two hierarchs celebrate the Holy Eucharist together, confirming their unity in Christ. With this joint celebration of the Holy Liturgy, the two church leaders clearly showed that the question of the date of the celebration of Easter is not dogmatic and cannot be a reason for church division!
Unfortunately, people from the height of the epic did not always stand on the Roman throne. Anyket. During his reign, Bishop Victor of Rome (189-198) threatened to excommunicate the people of Asia Minor if they did not harmonize their Easter practice with Rome. Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus, who headed the bishops of Asia Minor, wrote a letter to Ep. Victor, in which he explained that the Asia Minor tradition follows the apostolic practice and for them the practice of Rome is an innovation, but they do not judge them, nor do they want to abandon it. Ep. However, Victor was adamant and excommunicated the people of Asia Minor from the Eucharistic communion. This harsh reaction of the Roman bishop Victor provoked a protest reaction even among such supporters of the celebration of Easter on the first Sunday after Nisan 14 as St. Irenaeus of Lyons. St. Irenaeus sent a message to Ep. Victor, urging him to remain at peace with those celebrating Easter on Nisan 14. In it, among other things, St. Irenaeus of Lyons says that the termination of the Eucharistic communion on ceremonial matters is inadmissible.
Here is the time to emphasize a very important point in church history, namely that in the beginning the Church did not perform its own calculation of the Passover. She closely followed the Jewish calculation, and the only differences were whether to celebrate Nisan 14 or Nisan 14. But in the II-IV century, the Jews reformed their calendar. Because their calendar is lunar, compared to the solar calendar, an error accumulates that needs to be corrected periodically (in the lunar calendar, the days are 29 and 30 days, with 364 days a year, so Jews often had to add one leap year. – instead of 12 it contained 13 months and thus equated their year with that of the solar calendar). As a result of the Jewish reform of the calendar, it so happened that when calculating the holidays according to the new calendar, it happened to the Jews that Easter sometimes began to fall before the beginning of the vernal equinox. In the ancient world, the vernal equinox was considered by many to be the beginning (unofficially) of the new year. As a result of this reform, Christians also had to celebrate once before the vernal equinox, once after it, which forced Christians to compile their own Easter tables for the calculation of Easter so that they could always celebrate after the vernal equinox – thus began the Christian Easter. The creation of such an independent Passover meant that Christians would no longer comply with the Jewish date of Nisan 14, which ceased to properly reflect the day of Passover after the Jewish calendar reform. In Rome and Alexandria they began to create their own Easter tables. We will not dwell in detail on the principle underlying the creation of these Easter calculations, we will only note that there were churches such as Asia Minor, for example, which continued to celebrate according to the established practice of Nisan 14 on the Jewish calendar. As a result of the changed church practice, when the Alexandrian and Roman churches established their own Passover, independent of the Jewish one, it sometimes came to the point that the difference in the celebration of Easter between Asia Minor and other churches reached 5 weeks.
It is precisely this difference that the First Ecumenical Council seeks to eliminate, and it is precisely this that is reflected in the 7 Apostolic Rule and Rule 1 of the Antioch Council. To unify the celebration of Passover throughout the Church and to make this celebration based on one’s own calculation of the Passover, which does not depend on the calculations of the Jews. Exactly and clearly, no prohibitions on joint celebration with the Jews, as the old-fashioned defenders try to convince us. And since there is no ban on celebrating Easter with the Jews, it is in vain that we are banned from celebrating with non-Orthodox people, especially since a canon containing the term non-Orthodox people does not exist anywhere. It’s all a matter of manipulation, math and a well-chosen audience. But in order not to be unfounded in our assertion that this rule does not forbid the celebration of Passover with the Jews, but only forbids it to be calculated according to their Passover tables, it is necessary to give a few examples.
the 7 Apostolic Rule in question appeared immediately or shortly after the First Ecumenical Council, but in any case before 341, because it is referred to in Rule 1 of the Council of Antioch. That is, in any case, according to the interpretation of the apologists of the old style, the Church forbade the joint celebration with non-Orthodox and Jews before 341. Yes, but convincing proof that the rule says what we say is the fact that Christian Easter continues to coincide many times with the Jewish and after 341. For example, the Christian Passover coincides with the Jewish Passover only two years after the Council of Antioch in 343. Subsequently, we celebrated the Passover with the Jews in 347, 367, 370, 374 and 394. In the next fifth century, we celebrated with the Jews nine more times, and so on. Christians and Jews last celebrated Easter together in 783, after which date, due to inaccuracies in the Julian calendar and new reforms in the Jewish Passover, joint celebration became impossible. Furthermore, since the rule in question forbids, according to the apologists of the old style, the celebration of Easter together with non-Orthodox, why were they silent when in 2007 Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants celebrated Easter together? According to them, the new style was created for this blasphemous purpose – to get closer to non-believers, while the old, perfect, enlightened style would never allow such a thing? It is good to keep in mind that the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Easter will coincide again in the next 2010, will coincide in 2011 and in 2014 and in 2017, etc. Who is to blame for this? The new style? He cannot be, because pouring out their accusations against the New Style churches, the Old Style apologists somehow forget that the New Style churches remain faithful to this precept of Apostolic Rule 7, to celebrate Easter with the other sister churches. The calculation and celebration of Easter, as well as all movable holidays that depend on Easter in the new-style churches, remain unchanged and are calculated and celebrated in the same way and on the same day as the old-style churches. That is, in both the old and the new style, the Paschal is calculated as it was set in the ancient Church after the First Ecumenical Council. Then? Then there is only the possibility to agree with the only correct interpretation of rule 7 of the Holy Apostles and rule 1 of the Council of Antioch, namely that the words “who celebrates the holy day of Passover before the vernal equinox with the Jews” cannot in no way should they be understood as a prohibition on celebrating with Jews or anyone else, but only as an indication to break the long-standing ancient practice of making the Passover conditional on the Jewish calculation of the Passover.
So, why do you turn away from what is pleasing to the Most High?
ten, a hundred or a thousand years,
– in hell there is no search for the time of life.
(Sirach 41: 6-7)
In the first part of our article, we looked at one of the main arguments of the defenders of the old style, namely that the new style violates the canon of the First Ecumenical Council. However, the truth, as we have seen, is that the First Ecumenical Council did not draw up a canon for the celebration of Easter. As one of the most erudite defenders of the old style, the great Russian scientist Prof. VV Bolotov, is forced to admit, “no definite decisions (concerning Easter) have been issued by the First Ecumenical Council … What they at the council) could do is to reach an oral, unformed, friendly agreement decree that Easter should be celebrated according to the custom established in the Church of Alexandria. Perhaps it impresses readers that our article pays too much attention to the issue of what happened during the First Ecumenical Council. This is because it is the backbone of all apologies that dogmatize the calendar, which leads to numerous conclusions, which, although they have no canonical basis, have gained great popularity.
I am convinced that most of the defenders of the calendar mechanically repeat what they read here and there, but objectivity requires that the facts be always checked and verified. One of these hasty conclusions is that the Julian calendar satisfies all the requirements for Easter and the holidays associated with it, which is why it has become part of the Tradition! This statement is in itself absurd – the calendar cannot be part of the Tradition, it does not and cannot have a sotirological function. The calendar has an official function – it gives an indication of what to remember from the Church and what should be the internal logic of the annual service, but it does not sacred days and dates! By this logic we can declare the use of parchment as part of the Tradition, as it was used in the age of the councils. That is why these hierarchs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church are completely right, who repeatedly respond to the accusations of the old calendarists that the Church celebrates events, not dates. This is the opinion of all canonical church pastors, whether they belong to a new-style or old-style local Church.
What does the Church actually celebrate – events or dates?
The most eloquent example of the fact that the Church has always celebrated events, not dates, is the feast of the Resurrection of Christ. In the brief historical retrospective made in the first part of the article, we saw that the early Church even until the fourth century celebrated the day of the Resurrection in different ways and on different days. Subsequently, the Church prescribed that this be done independently of the Jewish Passover and necessarily after the vernal equinox. The latter, because after the Jewish reform of the lunar calendar, the Passover for the Jews began to fall sometimes before the vernal equinox. What is important to note in this case is that the Resurrection was never associated with a celebration on a specific calendar day, but depended first on the Jewish Paschal calculations, and then on the calculations of the Alexandrian Church, which has been famous since ancient times. his skilled astronomers. Translated into plain language, the Resurrection of Christ could have fallen and falls both in March and in April, and sometimes even in May! Then we should ask, what does the Church celebrate – the event of the Resurrection of Christ or some specific date?
The situation is similar with all the moving holidays, which change in accordance with Easter the day on which they are celebrated, but, of course, the celebrated event cannot be changed. Here is the place to note that the generally accepted dates for the celebration of the events of the earthly life of Christ, the Mother of God, and most of the saints are very arbitrary. For example, the date of Christmas December 25 – January 7 (old style) is not historical. We do not know exactly when Christ was born, in the first years the Church did not even celebrate this holiday. Subsequently, the celebration took place in a very wide range. For example, churches in Africa believed that Christ was born on March 28, according to Clement of Alexandria (+215) it happened on April 18, in the East it was accepted on January 6, while in the West it was accepted on December 25. Subsequently, all churches adopted the practice of the Western Church to celebrate on December 25. However, this did not happen immediately, but in a rather long historical period. By the way, another argument against the unfounded claims of the old-fashioned apologists that the First Ecumenical Council somehow constituted the Julian calendar as something “sacred” and obligatory for the Ecumenical Church is the fact that the churches of Caesarea and Antioch agree to celebrate Christmas on the 25th. December only after 376, half a century after the First Ecumenical Council. The Church of Jerusalem did this more than a hundred years after the First Ecumenical Council, in the period 430-431. Interestingly, the Armenian Church, which until the end of the V century was an integral part of the Ecumenical Church, retains its ancient practice and continues to celebrate the Nativity of Christ on January 6 in the civil style, reciprocally on January 19 in the old style.
The holidays associated with the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary were formed in the period V-VI century, as a strong impetus for this gives the Fourth Ecumenical Council (431), which confirms the correctness of its veneration. All dates in the calendar on which we celebrate the events of the earthly life of the Blessed Virgin are also conditional. What clearer evidence is that the Church celebrates events that have been arbitrarily (astronomically) fixed on certain dates, following not the historicity of events but the internal logic of church preaching.
The situation with fixed holidays is no different. It is too late to fix them on certain dates. The synaxar cycle was formed in Byzantium only in the period of the IX-XII century, long after the last Ecumenical Council (787). However, even today in the various Local Orthodox Churches, which are one calendar, there is a discrepancy in the dates of celebration. We will not go into too much detail, but for clarity we will allow ourselves to give a few examples.
The Slavic churches celebrate the memory of St. Catherine on November 24, while the other churches follow the Sinai tradition and celebrate on November 25. The reason for the discrepancy in the celebration is no less curious and very indicative that the idea of a metaphysical calendar is foreign to the Church. According to the life of the saint, her memory should be celebrated on November 24, the day of her martyrdom. In the Sinai Monastery “St. Ekaterina ”, however, the feast of the saint was united with the Tradition of the Introduction of the Mother of God (November 25), because according to the Tradition on that day her relics were discovered. This practice was adopted throughout the Church. However, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great did not want the feast of her saint to coincide or rather to be in the shadow of the larger feast of the Presentation of the Mother of God, so she returned it a day earlier. The change affected all Slavic churches, and the rest continue to celebrate the saint on November 25, and the divergence continues to this day, without disturbing anyone.
Often in the arsenal of arguments of the defenders of the old style can be found the statement that “the old calendar has been illuminated by its centuries-old use in the Church”, that is, it has become something sacred from prolonged sacred use! Such an argument also does not stand up to criticism. It is identical to the one once used by the defenders of the “trilingual heresy.” By this logic, we must reject the language reform of St. Patriarch Euthymius only because he undertook to edit liturgical books, “sanctified by several centuries of use.” In Russia, the Nikon reform marked the beginning of the schism of the Old Believers, who to this day continue to hold on to the two fingers (the two fingers) – enclosing the body with the sign of the cross, filled not with three but with two fingers. By the logic of those who use this argument, we should declare the Old Believers a canonical church and the Russian Orthodox Church a schismatic one, just because Christians crossed themselves with two fingers until the 5th-6th centuries. Moreover, the argument for the two fingers is much stronger, because the cross actually sanctifies and blesses, unlike the calendar, and that is how the fathers of the First Ecumenical Council were baptized. But we must repeat once again that the sacrament of the Church has nothing to do with human logic, no matter how true it may sound.