Elder Paisios of Mount Athos on the “Old Calendarists”

6 November 2011

Elder Paisios dealt with the Calendar issue too. He was really worried for the division the issue has caused and he was praying about it. He was really worried for the groups formed by old calendarists behaving independently having no communion with the Orthodox Patriarchates and the local Orthodox Churches. Some groups of those kinds that were in Athens and Thessalonica, united under his instruction with the Church of Greece, keeping at the same time the old calendar.

The elder said: “It would have been good if this calendar difference did not exist, but it is not a matter of faith”. In the objections that the New Calendar was done by a Pope he would reply: “The new calendar was made by a Pope and the old one by an idolater,” meaning of course Julius Caesar. In order to understand the position of the Elder more clearly on the matter, the following incident is mentioned.
An Orthodox Christian who was Greek in origin had lived with his family in the USA for many years. He had a serious problem, though. He was himself a “zealot” (old calendarist) whereas his wife and children followed the New Calendar. “We could not celebrate a feast together like a family”, he used to say. ??They would celebrate Christmas when for me was St. Spyridon’s Feast. When I had Christmas, they had St. John’s. And that was the least of our problems. The worst thing was to know, as they had been teaching us, that the NCs are heretics and will be damned.

It is no little thing to keep hearing that your wife and your children betrayed their faith, went with the Pope’s side; their mysteries have no grace etc. We would talk for hours on, but without coming to a conclusion. To say the truth, there was something I did not like with the OCs too, especially when some of our bishops would come to talk to us. They were not talking with love and pain in their heart for the deceived New Calendarists (as they considered them to be). But it was as if they had hatred and were happy when they would proclaim that the NCs would go to hell. They were very fanatical. And when their speech would end, I would feel inside me an internal agitation. I was losing my peace. But I would not even think of leaving our tradition. I was greatly distressed with the whole issue. Surely something would happen to me from the constant worry.
In one of my travels to Greece I mentioned my problem to my cousin Yianni (John). He told me about some elder Paisios. We decided to go to the Holy Mountain, in order for me to meet with him. We arrived at “Panagouda” (where the Elder was living). The Elder offered us something and with a smiling face made me sit next to him. I felt at a loss with his behavior. I felt that, as he was acting as if he had known me forever, he also knew all about me.
– How are things going there with the cars, in America? were his first words.
I was taken aback. I had forgotten to mention that my job was at parking lots, and of course I was dealing with cars all day long.
– I’m doing well, was the only thing I could falter, looking at the Elder with surprise in my eyes.
– How many churches do you have there where you live?
– Four, I replied and a new wave of surprise came over me.
– With the old or with the new (calendar)? , came the third “thunderbolt” which, however, instead of increasing my surprise, somehow made me feel more at ease with the Elder’s charisma.
– Two with the old and two with the new, I replied.
– Which one do you follow?
– I with the old, and my wife with the new, I replied.
– Look. You should go where your wife goes, he told me with firmness, and was preparing to give me explanations.
But for me the matter was already closed. I did not need more explanations or arguments. Something unbelievable had happened inside me; something divine. What was torturing me had gone away. All the arguments and all the threats and anathemas against the new calendarists that I would hear for years now had been vanished. I felt the grace of God who through His Saint was acting on me and filling me with a peace that I had long longed for. My internal situation was evidently seen through my eyes. What I remember was that my situation may have made the Elder to stop for a wile. But then he continued to give me some explanations. Perhaps for me to tell others, and also so that I could use them for myself in a time of temptation, when that divine situation would have passed.
– We too of course follow the old (calendar) on Athos. But this is a different situation. We are united with the Church, with all the Patriarchates, both of those that follow the New and of the Old calendar. We recognize their mysteries as valid and they recognize ours. Their priests make service with our priests. Whereas these poor folk (the OCs) were cut off. Most of them have piety, accuracy (in following the canons) and a fighting spirit and true zeal of God. But it only happens inexplicably and not because they have knowledge of what they do. Others due to simplicity, others due to lack of knowledge, and others due to selfishness though, went astray. They considered the 13 days as a dogmatic issue and all of us deceived, and thus left the Church. They do not have communion with the Patriarchates and the Churches that follow both either the new or the old calendar because the later ones supposedly became contaminated through their communion with the new calendarists. And this is not the only thing. Even those few that have remained (as OCs in Greece), have become … even I don’t know how many pieces! And they keep being cut off into smaller pieces all the time and they keep anathematising each other, excommunicating each other and defrocking each other. You do not know how much I have grieved and been saddened by this situation. I have prayed a lot. It is important that we show love towards them and feel for them and not to condemn them; and more importantly, for us to pray for them so that God illumines them, and, if once in a while one of them asks help from us in a good-natured manner, we could say a word or two, the Elder concluded.
More than five years passed since the Elder’s repose. Mr. X. returned to “Panagouda” to thank the Elder, because after that time when he first met him, he found his spiritual but also familial happiness, and with tears in his eyes described the above events. With his love, prayer and discernment, the Elder knew when to speak, how to act, and how to help Mother Church quietly, avoiding extremisms and healing the wounds that torment the body of the Church and scandalize the faithful.

Taken from the book “Life of the Elder Paisios the Athonite” (in Greek) by Hieromonk Father Isaak (pages 691-696).

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