Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Jad Ganem: Between Yesterday and Today

Arabic original here.

Between Yesterday and Today

What the local Orthodox Churches are experiencing today resembles, to a certain degree, what the Orthodox world experienced in the period from 1923 to 1948 on account of the disagreement about the decision of the Orthodox summit of Istanbul called by Patriarch Meletios (Metaxakis) of Constantinople, to modify the Julian Calendar and issue what was known at the time as the  “Revised Julian Calendar", the adoption of which led, within the small number of churches that participated in the summit, to dividing the Orthodox world between:

    - Churches that supported changing the calendar and adopted it immediately, like the Church of Constantinople.

    - Churches that agreed to the new calendar and adopted it after a short period of time, like the Chuches of Greece, Romania and Poland.

    - Churches that declined to adopt the calendar, considering a change in the calendar to require the convocation of an ecumenical council, like the Churches of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem and the Russian Church Abroad.

    - The Church of Serbia, which signed the decision of the summit to adopt the new calendar, but then went back and rejected it.

    - The Church of Cyprus, which declined to take a position on the matter and endeavored to find a general Orthodox solution to the issue.

This disarray continued until 1930, when the Churches of Alexandria, Antioch and Cyprus gradually retracted their decision and adopted the modified calendar, such that the situation in the Orthodox world has stabilized between the churches that use the old calendar and others that use the revised calendar.

It is noteworthy that, despite the disagreement about the calendar issue and the canonicity of the Istanbul summit's decsions, all the Orthodox Churches remained in communion with each other, even if their supporters started to avoid participating with each other in divine services on account of this disagreement, which continued until 1948, when the Orthodox Conference held in Moscow adopted a provisional solution to this issue:
    - The agreement that all the Orthodox Churches would celebrate Easter together according to the Old Julian Calendar on the basis of the Alexandrine method of computation.

    - That each church would use the calendar it had adopted with regard to fixed feasts.

    - Requiring "the clergy and laity to follow the calendar adopted in the Church to which they belong, to accept it as a tradition of this Church and to respect it as the Holy Canons require as an expression of unity and love."

At a time when the local Churches were able to preserve unity and commuion among each other, internal unity was shaken , on account of the disagreement over the calendar, in a number of churches, reaching the point of schism in the Chuches of Greece and Romania, where a number of bishops split from the Universal Orthodox Church and established schismatic entities, called the "Old Calendarists." They are entities that repeatedly had internal schisms and which supported other schisms within a number of local Churches, which lack ecclesiastical legitimacy.
Since it is clear that Constantinople is betting on the pattern that it adopted previously with regard to the issue of accepting the Revised Julian Calendar, focusing on relying on the factor of time to change the position of some Churches, betting that the other local Churches will insist on preserving unity and avoiding schism, attention should be drawn to the possibility matters will procede in a different direction this time, such that the Orthodox schism becomes established between churches that recognize what Constantinople did in Ukraine and others that reject it, leading to schisms within the local churches themselves, as the inevitable repercussions of this larger schism.

 Therefore, the most important lesson that can be drawn from the earlier period remains that only serious conciliarity can save us from tumult, unrest and schisms. Can we learn?

No comments: