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ajk Offline OP
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I only recently read this from the Catholic News Agency article, Vatican cardinal supports common Easter date for Catholics, Orthodox, Mar 12, 2021:
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The president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, has supported a suggestion that Catholics and Orthodox work to agree on a common date to celebrate Easter.

A representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the World Council of Churches (WCC) said a common Easter date could be a sign of “encouragement” for the ecumenical movement.

Orthodox Archbishop Job Getcha of Telmessos suggested that the year 2025, which will be the 1,700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, would be a good year to introduce this reform of the calendar.

This is an initiative of the of Ecu­meni­cal Patri­ar­chate. The full proposal by Archbishop Job, giving the scope and intent, is the second article (scroll down) in the February 2021 Newsletter of the Per­ma­nent Dele­ga­tion of the Ecu­meni­cal Patri­ar­chate to the World Council of Churches: EDITORIAL TOWARDS A COMMON DATE OF EASTER: REMAINING FAITHFUL TO THE COUNCIL OF NICEA (325).

Four years, then, to study and prepare and discuss.

We've had several spirited discussion related to this topic on this forum. What will it take for this new initiative be viable?

I invite all to give their views on what it will take for there is to be real progress, not the stagnation and stalemate of the past. I say progress and not (complete) success because I suspect there will be some who will never accept anything but THEIR status quo. Will truth prevail -- and should it -- at the risk of schism?

This calendar question, more precisely a unified observance of the annual feast of Pascha, acknowledged as the Feast of Feasts, is not dogma but it is theology, specifically (I'd say) Liturgical Theology. That is why this thread is here in Faith and Theology and not a News forum. For my part I intend to identify certain defining issues and significant events, and what I believe are the basic facts that must be clarified and accepted, before there can be any real progress.

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Christ is in our midst!!

ajk,

Thank you for bringing this topic, one we have discussed on this board at great length. I wonder how far it will go in the next four years up to the 1700th anniversary of Nicaea 1. Are all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches involved in this? Are the Oriental Orthodox part of this endeavor?

Just some thoughts.

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Originally Posted by theophan
Are all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches involved in this? Are the Oriental Orthodox part of this endeavor?
I don't know but guess who's not on board:

Standardization of the Date of Easter: Moscow Says “Nyet”

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However, in a televised interview in April 2021, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokalmsk declared that a modification of the Julian Calendar was “not on the agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church,” which has, in his own words, “no intention of changing the traditional system whereby the date of the celebration of Easter is fixed in our Church.”
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An attempt at conciliation was swept aside with a wave of the hand by the Russians: “But the question here is very simple: who should change their Paschal calendar? For example, we are not going to change it.”

And number two in Russian Orthodoxy recalled a similar attempt, a century earlier, in the 1920s, when Patriarch Tikhon issued an order to switch our calendar to the new style, and two weeks later this order had to be canceled, since the church people did not accept it.”

A predictable result, because the scattering of autocephalous churches in the Greek world - not to mention the political subjugation that their status entails - does not allow for the possibility that the standardization of the date of Easter will be reached soon, and as long as the grace of conversion has not illuminated intelligences and inflamed hearts.

So the sure way not to botch a reform again is to not even consider it.

More on this is also reported in Metropolitan Hilarion: the Russian Church will not change its way of establishing the date of Easter.

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Christ is in our midst!!

I had seen the article about His Eminence's comments before. That's why I asked.

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ajk Offline OP
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Originally Posted by ajk
Standardization of the Date of Easter: Moscow Says “Nyet”

Quote
However, in a televised interview in April 2021, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokalmsk declared that a modification of the Julian Calendar was “not on the agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church,” which has, in his own words, “no intention of changing the traditional system whereby the date of the celebration of Easter is fixed in our Church.”
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An attempt at conciliation was swept aside with a wave of the hand by the Russians: “But the question here is very simple: who should change their Paschal calendar? For example, we are not going to change it.”

And number two in Russian Orthodoxy recalled a similar attempt, a century earlier, in the 1920s, when Patriarch Tikhon issued an order to switch our calendar to the new style, and two weeks later this order had to be canceled, since the church people did not accept it.”

A predictable result, because the scattering of autocephalous churches in the Greek world - not to mention the political subjugation that their status entails - does not allow for the possibility that the standardization of the date of Easter will be reached soon, and as long as the grace of conversion has not illuminated intelligences and inflamed hearts.

I surmise that Metropolitan Hilarion is poorly informed or not informed or does not care to be informed. Certain bishops and theologians ought to be ashamed of themselves for advocating or advancing the solution of Met. Hilarion's "traditional system," that is the Julian Computus, or those, like the Fathers of VCII, who advance or would accept a fixed date proposal. Both are deficient as a matter of theology, specifically the Liturgical Theology that I mentioned in the initial post. Those same bishops and theologians readily give their opinions, but it appears they do not have the intellectual capacity or the dedication to be adequately informed.

Prejudice, polemics and pride are why the Gregorian reform of the Julian Computus has not been acknowledged for the true and proper Revised Julian Calendar and Paschalion that it is. Owning that should be a necessary step in advancing a unified Pascha observance after 2025. That would entail that Orthodoxy, as the nexus of the Julian Paschalion, admit two mistakes:

1. The rejection of calendar reform by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th c. and the several anathemas of that reform that followed.

2. The attempt at its own calendar reform of the 1920's, specifically its self-designated (Milanković) Orthodox "Revised Julian Calendar" (ORJC) and then, as though inviting failure, using it for fixed feasts but keeping the Julian Pascha as a compromise.

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Christ is in our midst!!

ajk,

I wonder if either of the last two suggestions you put forward will ever come to pass. It is my understanding that in Orthodoxy the entire Church must come to a unanimous decision on this type of issue. Many of the Slavic Churches do not, to this day, used the Revised Julian Calendar, though the Greek Churches do. Then there is the case of the Orthodox Church of Finland which uses the entire Western calendar for both fixed feasts and the Paschalion.

How do the Orthodox Churches come to a common practice before they can dialogue with those outside their communion?

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Originally Posted by theophan
I wonder if either of the last two suggestions you put forward will ever come to pass. It is my understanding that in Orthodoxy the entire Church must come to a unanimous decision on this type of issue. Many of the Slavic Churches do not, to this day, used the Revised Julian Calendar, though the Greek Churches do. Then there is the case of the Orthodox Church of Finland which uses the entire Western calendar for both fixed feasts and the Paschalion.

How do the Orthodox Churches come to a common practice before they can dialogue with those outside their communion?
True in principle but is there ever that ideal consensus of a "unanimous decision"? There is already, for various reasons, the variation among the Slavs, Greeks and Finns as noted. But I don't know the Orthodox mindset and priorities.

What I am saying is that those Orthodox and Catholics, who realize that the Julian Paschaleon status quo can no longer be maintained, commit to its revision and actually make it happen. Just consulting internet sources, I find that most of the in-depth and unbiased critiques of the Julian Computus are from Orthodox writers. They just can't seem to bring themselves to endorse the Gregorian reform, however, even though it should be the obvious conclusion; rather they highlight some seemingly deficient aspect of the Gregorian Computus, of a kind and magnitude that is inherent in any calendar, as justification for a different, neutral solution.

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It just makes eminent sense to adopt the spirit of the Council of Nicaea and adopt the calendar that is in use today as the basis for calculating Pascha. If there are those churches that refuse, so be it. Let them carry on their "Third Rome" pretense. Does any one care anymore?

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It just makes eminent sense to adopt the spirit of the Council of Nicaea and adopt the calendar that is in use today as the basis for calculating Pascha. If there are those churches that refuse, so be it. Let them carry on their "Third Rome" pretense. Does any one care anymore?

Christ is in our midst!!

The problem is that the Russian Orthodox Church is the largest Orthodox Church in the world. It also seems to have a lot of influence with the rest of the Slavic Orthodox Churches. So it would seem to matter.

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Originally Posted by theophan
Originally Posted by Utroque
It just makes eminent sense to adopt the spirit of the Council of Nicaea and adopt the calendar that is in use today as the basis for calculating Pascha. If there are those churches that refuse, so be it. Let them carry on their "Third Rome" pretense. Does any one care anymore?

The problem is that the Russian Orthodox Church is the largest Orthodox Church in the world. It also seems to have a lot of influence with the rest of the Slavic Orthodox Churches. So it would seem to matter.

Recent comments on the calendar by authoritative Russian Orthodox clergy, Bishop Hilarion, who is "chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations," as quoted before, and here Fr. Stefan, "secretary for inter-Christian relations at the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations," demonstrate their truly appalling vincible ignorance* on this topic:
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According to Father Stefan, the “return of all Christian churches to uniformity in the date of the celebration of Easter would be a great blessing for the Christian world.” However, he also made clear that the Moscow Patriarchate will not change its way of calculating the date of Pascha. Thus, the RIA article states:

He [Father Stefan] stressed that the Paschalion is "a dogmatic position." "To depart from it means to lose touch with the Orthodox tradition. For the Russian Church, this issue cannot be on the agenda. We adhere to the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils and the Holy Fathers. This makes us Orthodox," concluded the representative of the Russian Church.

...

Father Stefan seems to be saying that the use of the Paschalion is a matter of dogma and that changing it cannot be “on the agenda.” In contrast, Archbishop Job in his editorial refers to the Paschalion as “old lunation tables” which are not astronomically correct. If Father Stefan’s statement reflects the position of the Moscow Patriarchate, it appears that the only way to obtain a uniform Easter date is for all churches to use the Julian calendar and the Paschalion in calculating the date.
The Russian Orthodox Church support...ster at the same time for all Christians

Given this stand, the Russian Orthodox Church should be ashamed of itself; it's giving religion a bad name. The 'Paschalion is "a dogmatic position."' Really? If Orthodoxy, though it may demur, must be in lock-step with such obstinate ignorance to avoid schism, then 2025 will be another exercise in futility.

__________________________________
* " Ignorance is vincible if a person could remove it by applying reasonable diligence. Reasonable diligence, in turn, is that diligence that a conscientious person would display in seeking the correct answer to a question given (a) the gravity of the question and (b) his particular resources."

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Originally Posted by ajk
... What will it take for this new initiative to be viable?

... to be real progress, not the stagnation and stalemate of the past... Will truth prevail -- and should it -- at the risk of schism?

This calendar question, more precisely a unified observance of the annual feast of Pascha, … is not dogma but it is theology, specifically (I'd say) Liturgical Theology ... For my part I intend to identify certain defining issues and significant events, and what I believe are the basic facts that must be clarified and accepted, before there can be any real progress.

Archbishop Job's editorial references the 1997 Aleppo Conference document, Towards a Common Date for Easter.* The proposed 2025 initiative, I expect, will build on that 1997 document as it should. +JOB's proposal and that document are informative and give a very good overview of the issues. There are a number of aspects of the basic topics, however, that are either not emphasized or not stated with the clarity needed to avoid the confusion that too often produces false impressions and subsequent erroneous restatements.

The 2025 initiative, and studies leading up to it, must be clearer, more specific and comprehensive, and more forthright. Here are some specifics:

1. Reject the fixed date idea as an insult to the 2000 year history of Christianity's sense of a liturgical calendar.

2. Reject the Julian calendar and its computus, i.e., its Paschalion, as no longer able to adhere to the Nicaean norm.

3. Acknowledge that in its approach (Nicaea and leap-year revision) and methodology (maintaining a link with the Julian’s Metonic cycle) the true Revised Julian Calendar IS the Gregorian Calendar.

4. Accept the Gregorian solar calendar; it is a Christian calendar and it has become the normative international civil calendar.

5. Accept the Gregorian (lunar) computus, its Paschalion, or an equivalent. Clearly acknowledge that it in no way whatsoever violates the (Eastern Church) Typikon.

Regarding:

1 & 2: Worse than the fixed date approach are those who argue that adherents of the Gregorian Paschalion, who are faithful to the norms of Nicaea in fact, should instead use the Julian for the sake of unity. To do so, or recommend or in any way sanction this only reduces the sense of the Paschalion of a Christian Passover, and its liturgical theology, to a trite formalism. It is an easy solution but a cop-out; it allows a caricature that only mimics what is true: Accept a faulty application of the heralded norms of Nicaea, when a correct implementation is available and works, in order to achieve the unity desired by that same Council. As a NT feast linked to the OT, this is Pascha nominalism, the flip side of the Old Calendar zealots’ calendar idolatry. Two examples of academics sympathizing with or tolerating this capitulation approach are: A Common Date for Easter?, Bert Groen in an Interview of July 25, 2015, Pray Tell blog; and Pope Francis and the Absurdly Vexed Calendar Question , Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille, June 25, 2015 Catholic World Report.

3&4 are just (indisputable) facts. For #3, the Julian calendar and its Paschalion is clearly identifiable in all aspects of the Gregorian reform whereas the (Milanković-Trpković) Orthodox Revised Julian Calendar approach has no significant link to it whatsoever.

5: The need for the Orthodox Revised Julian Calendar, and the “exact” scientific, astronomical approach may be an unnecessary complication; there are caveats and ramifications that need to be explored and documented. If the church does science then it must be held to the standards of science: properly report the methodology, the calculation, the database, the results, according to the norms of scientific reporting. The “exact” scientific, astronomical approach is just another model of the cosmos, more sophisticated and detailed than a traditional computus but a model nevertheless.

_______________________________________
* The table of dates attached at the end of that document has an incorrect entry, ironically, for the year 2025. It has for the Julian Easter/Pascha May 20 when it should be April 20, the same as the Gregorian, and the crux of +JOB's proposal highlighting a unified 2025 observance.

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Originally Posted by ajk
5: The need for the Orthodox Revised Julian Calendar, and the “exact” scientific, astronomical approach may be an unnecessary complication; there are caveats and ramifications that need to be explored and documented. If the church does science then it must be held to the standards of science: properly report the methodology, the calculation, the database, the results, according to the norms of scientific reporting. The “exact” scientific, astronomical approach is just another model of the cosmos, more sophisticated and detailed than a traditional computus but a model nevertheless.

The 1997 Aleppo statement recommends that "the most likely way to succeed in achieving a common date for Easter in our own day would be," in II 11.(b), "to calculate the astronomical data ... by the most accurate possible scientific means," It then explains
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In regard to point b:In recommending calculation of the astronomical data by the most accurate possible scientific means (as distinct, for example, from reliance on conventional cyclical tables or personal observation), the consultation believes that it is being completely faithful to the spirit of the Council of Nicea itself, which also was willing to make use of the best available scientific knowledge. We are fortunate that experts in astronomy have already provided these necessary calculations; they are conveniently presented in Synodica V (Chambésy - Genève, Les Editions du Centre Orthodoxe, 1981) 133 - 149.

This is an example of throwing out terms and objectives that sound reasonable and even commendable but risk being hyperbole. How often will the calculation be updated as scientific data and theories improve? At what actual level of sophistication will the calculations be performed? How precise do they need to be to fit the criteria? Aleppo was in 1997 and the calculated data is from 1981. Consider this from the introduction to the Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac 3rd Edition (2012), keying on the word new:
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1.1.4 Conceptual Changes since the Last Edition
There have been a number of major changes since the 1992 edition …New procession and nutation theories have been adopted. New timescales and coordinate transformations have been introduced... Increases in accuracy, and the theories required by the increased accuracies, have driven most of these changes. … These observations have been used to define a conceptually new reference system. … At these accuracy levels, the definitions of the reference systems and the methods of reduction and analysis require the theory of relativity.

The new, space-fixed, barycentiric astronomical reference system … The new reference system, called the International Celestial Reference System (ICRS). is defined by a series of International Astronomical Union (IAU) resolutions passed In 1991, 1997, 2000. 2003 and 2006…

In order to define rigorously the ICRS in relativistic terms, the IAU introduced two systems… The IAU established a new moving reference frame of date … the IAU introduced new concepts and definitions including a new combined precession-nutation model …
This is for just a 20 year period. Are the churches and its scientific experts willing to keep up with all this to give us the timing of Pascha by the envisioned "most accurate possible scientific means"? Does adherence to the Nicaean norm justify this level of technical complexity and detail?

One of the difficulties about the calendar issue is that it has so many dimensions: historical, theological, sociological, pastoral, scientific; it requires an interdisciplinary approach. For instance, consider this Fr. John Whiteford on the New Calendar Controversy in Orthodoxy (Interview with Michael Lofton) (link), streamed live on Jan 14, 2020, and the relative proportion of each of the dimensions.

Also, on the common sense level there are those who have little or no interest in the details or a desire to make the effort to learn yet, they have strong opinions and through the internet the means to express their uninformed, faulty opinions. For the 2025 initiative to move the churches, the christian, forward to a common reckoning of Pascha there must be a proper and accepted catechesis of all, the people and the expert alike. It needs to begin now.

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Synodica V (Chambésy - Genève, Les Editions du Centre Orthodoxe, 1981) referenced by the Aleppo Statement, Towards a Common Date of Easter (TCDE), is entirely devoted to the calendar issue on a number of levels, not just the technical, astronomical. It is available as a pdf-download, 3.8MB, SYNODHIKA_5.pdf. It reveals that consideration was given to adoption of the Gregorian Calendar, and TCDE2025 should reexamine and reevaluate this option. It seems there is very little if any initiative by the Catholic Church in advocating the calendar and Paschalion that it initiated. To the extent this is so it is very unfortunate: the inability or unwillingness of the Catholic Church to offer a real service to the truth by standing up for and presenting the advantages and legitimacy of the Gregorian reform of 1582 and its calendar and Paschalion. The journey begun at Nicaea in 325 could properly, that is in the spirit and details of the Nicaean norm accepted by all, end with the adoption of the Gregorian Paschalion in 2025. This is not just idle talk, hyperbole, triumphalism or flamboyant rhetoric. It is eminently defendable and the Catholic Church should be taken to task for not advocating the Gregorian approach on its own merits, at least for the present and some considerable future time. The study Proceedings of the Vatican Conference to commemorate its 400th Anniversary, 1582-1982 should have a prominent place in the deliberations of TCDE2025. As its Preface states:

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Although this book is published as a Commemoration of the 400th Anniversary of the Gregorian Reform of the Calendar, its nature is not simply commemorative but it is intended to serve as a stimulus to further reflection, scholarly or otherwise, upon the calendar. With hardly, I believe, an exception we all experience that strange phenomenon of the almost inverse proportionality between the importance of many common factors in our lives and the degree of attention that we give to them. Among such factors is the role of the calendar in our daily activities. How many of us give any attention to how and why the calendar is structured the way it is? Could it be structured otherwise, perhaps even better? Yet the calendar forms the basis for the rhythm of our various daily activities. We take holyday weekends, have blue Mondays, envy those who work bankers' hours and experience a host of other phenomena, all of which we take for granted. Do we reflect, for instance, that the duration of the hour and the length of the week have no basis in natural astronomical phenomena, even though both are of very long usage? The week, in fact, is the only calendar period which has survived all calendar reforms without interruption. On the other hand the three "natural" periods are the day, the month and the year, arising from the relative motions of the earth, moon and sun; the incommensurability of these periods is the fundamental reason for the long and continuing history of calendar reform, a part of which is recorded in this book.

Synodica V also refutes and dispels the outright fabrications that the Gregorian reform violated the norm of Nicaea, in particular the utterly ridiculous statement that Pascha/Easter must be after Jewish Passover. How many times is this repeated when just the opposite is true; those who continue to maintain this and then also use it as a deficiency of the Gregorian Paschalion are actually the ones who are diametrically opposing the Nicaean norm. I recommend from the Synodica V volume The Date of Easter – A Canonist’s Observations (48-53) by Prof. (now Fr.) John Erickson (retired dean and church history professor [emeritus] of St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary) followed by Prof. Gorges Contopoulos’ The Date of Easter (53-56). In particular, Erickson (50-51) quotes from an article in SVTQ (Ogitsky:1973, 278):

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Neither in the canons nor in other documents contemporary to the Council of Nicaea, and which interpret its definition is there any mention that one must exclude the possibility of coincidental concurrences of the Christian Pascha with the Jewish, i, e. the possibility of celebrating it in several instances on the same day as the Jews. Also, nowhere is there a prohibition against Christians celebrating Pascha earlier than the Jews. Such a prohibition would indicate a dependence of the date of the Christian Pascha on the date of the Jewish Passover. And everything that we know about the Nicene definition points to the fact that the Nicene Fathers were against any dependence whatsoever of Christians on Jews regarding this question.

Also of note from the article by Prof. Gorges Contopoulos (55):
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The conclusion is that the present calculation of the date of Easter by the Orthodox Church is not in accordance with the letter of the 1st Ecumenical Synod. It is not even in accordance with its spirit, which is to have all Christians celebrate Easter on the same day.
Now, what solutions can be proposed? The obvious solution is to follow immediately the Gregorian calendar. This has two obvious advantages:
a) It is in close agreement with the rule established by the 1st Ecumenical Synod, and
b) Easter will be celebrated the same Sunday by all Christians.

However, this solution has also some difficulties. I will not discuss the difficulties arising from any change introduced in the Church, due to the traditionalistic attitude of many people. This problem is for you to discuss and solve.

I would offer considerable criticism for the socio-cultural insights of Archimandrite Nikon Patrinacos (78-96), and some misgivings about comments of the Anglican observer Rev. Wynburn (69-70). A Common Date for Easter – Notes on the Efforts in the Ecumenical Movement by Rev. Dr. Lukas Vischer (59-67) presents background on a number of issues that still provoke debate and should be on the TCDE2025 agenda. The other presentations and exchanges among participants are in French.


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