Why the Orthodox Christians, especially in Russia, celebrate Christmas on January 7th instead of December 25th? This program will be the answer to this question. Here is an excerpt from a book entitled “About Paschalia” edited by Archimandrite Naum, elder of the St.Trinity-St.Sergius monastery situated in the Moscow region.
“The question of the church calendar is a question of faith and a very important one at that. The value of calendar for the Orthodox Church is determined primarily by its correlation to the time of celebration of Holy Easter. In this confession of Christ’s Resurrection lies the essence of our faith, our hope and longing, the fullness of eternal joy and bliss. The Risen Christ has sanctified, blessed and strengthened all men.
God had created the world and time itself out of nothing, and our Saviour chose this very time of creation as the time of renewal, when He suffered and gave the commandment – “This do in remembrance of Me” – to yearly celebrate Easter – the Resurrection of Christ. This creation of the world and the beginning of Being took place in the spring period, in the month of March, 5508 B.C. On Friday, the sixth day of creation at noon, man was created. Of this period, the beginning of the Being of the universe, we read in the Procedural Psalmbook, which contains, apart from psalms, the prayer-book and various service procedures, also the articles of faith and pascal tables:
“The month of March (of holy martyr St.Eudokia), the day having 12 hours and the night having 12 hours. This is the first month among months, for therein was created this visible world of the beginning of Being, and Adam — the first man from God — was created and all creatures for his sake; and introduced to Heaven and, for transgression, banished. In this same month, God, without leaving His Majestic throne, descended from heaven to His love of man, as rain onto fleece, by Archangel's annunciation in the Pure womb of Holy Virgin Mary through the Holy Ghost incarnated unfathomably, only He knows how. On this day, by voluntary passion of His flesh and by His death, He overcame death and by His radiant Lifegiving Resurrection was Adam and the whole Humankind from hell delivered and to the original state restored, so as to inherit heaven. For this reason, from its first day begin all circles of the sun and moon, and the leap-year, and the equinox are established thereby, etc.”
Cognition of the world as an integral whole with Earth as its centre was opened to man. The geocentrism here is not physical, but rather spiritual, for the sake of man. In the life of peoples there appeared calendars, in whose rhythm and memory the outer cosmos of the universe amalgamated with the inner cosmos of man. Observers imagine the celestial sphere, the stars on it, a plumb line with the horizon, the
world's axis, the equator, the celestial meridian, the sun's ecliptic. Observation of the sky reveals the majesty of the goodness of God and the wisdom of the Creator.
In the Book of Job (Chapter 38) God addresses the righteous pious man and says to him out of a whirl-wind: answer thou Me — when I founded the earth “who hath laid the foundations thereof?” The Earth has a round form and a certain size and weight. If the Earth's weight were smaller, it would spin far away from the Sun, and if the weight were greater, it would spin too close to the sun; in either case, normal life on our planet would be impossible. And much, much more did God ask Job, but who can know the mind of the Lord. Before that, God created the very essence of light and on the fourth day created the body of the sun. God has divided the essence of light into glow (the bush in Mose's times, the Fire on Holy Saturday at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem) and burning power. There is material, mental and sensuous, and immaterial light.
In memory of the deliverance from the Egyptian bondage, the Jews began to celebrate Passover in 1609 B.C., from 14 to 21 Nisan, in the month of Abib-March, the month of the ears, the time of ripening of the earliest bred — the barley — in Palestine. This time symbolizes the beginning of time at creation, and the Lord Himself speaks of this: “this month shall be unto you the beginning of months, it shall be the first month of the year to you”, “observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover unto the Lord thy God: for in the month of Abib the Lord thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.” The Passover symbolized Easter — the power of the Cross, the Baptism and eternal life, for in Egypt, all those who had had the lintel and two side posts of their house stained cross-wise with the blood of a lamb, remained alive and all crossed the Red Sea and were delivered from the Egyptian bondage. The Passover, which the Lord performed with His disciples, was, as it were, the fore-celebra¬tion of His passions.
St. John Chrysostom writes that the Saviour suffered on the Cross, becoming the Passover Lamb on Friday, at the very same hours, that Adam had spent from eating the fruit to God's judgment, — from the sixth hour to the ninth (according to our time — from 12 to 3 p.m.).
The Lord went to His death at Calvary on the very Friday, when the Jews celebrated Passover. Until the middle of the III century, this Passover of the cross, the immolation of Christ, was celebrated by Christians of the Churches of Asia-Minor on 14 of Nisan together with the Jews, uniting the old Testament Passover with that of the new Testament. The Jews celebrate immolation of the lamb, and the Christians — the immolation of Christ. But without the Resurrection, our faith is in vain. If Christ died like a man and we celebrate His sufferings on the cross as those of a man and do not celebrate after the three-day Resurrection, then Christ is not God, but just a man. As far back as the II century, the Rome council forbade the celebration of Easter according to the Jews or with the Jews, because the Apostolic rule reads: Alien to the Church is he, who observes Easter with the Jews.
The question of Paschalia is both dogmatical and canonical, and when the Orthodox celebrate Easter at the time, which reveals the symbol of the first and the eighth unsetting day, and remember the suffering and death, descent into Hell and the Resurrection, namely: after equinox, after full moon, on the day of Sunday, — then the Lord grants the appearance of the Blessed Fire at the Holy Sepulchre. He who keeps, along with other commandments, the commandment and tradition about Easter, does truly and observe in his life the Divine Truth, the goodness and sanctity of the Lord. He who does not keep the commandment about Paschalia, does not, as we often see, observe either all or some of God's commandments. And let their conscience be their judge.
The Holy Tradition prescribes: 1. That Easter be after vernal equinox; 2. After the following full moon; 3. On the first following Sunday; 4. That this Feast does not coincide with the Jewish Passover, which serves as a time reference, but that it be after the Jewish Passover.
The seven-day week begins with the creation of the world. The first day, being the image of the eternal, merges with Sunday. The Sun circle contains 28 years (7x4) — after 28 years the days of the week are repeated, which is important for the Paschalia. The Moon circle contains a 19-year Metonic cycle, but after every 19 years, the full moon, though occurring on the same day, takes place almost one and a half hours earlier than previously, so that after every 312 years, the full moon takes place one whole day earlier than previously. This shift of full moons was known to the pastors of the Eastern Church.
St. John Chrysostom indicates that “Equinox is the beginning of initial time at creation, when day and night were equal. Full Moon, however, was created after equinox, on the fourth day; on the sixth day God created man. Time of creation is chosen as time of renewal, namely: equinox, full Moon on the 14th day and on the day of the creation of man. At the same time, the Lord suffered, crying: “Father, the hour is come.” The seven days of suffering coincided exactly with the first seven days of creation — this is the paramount time. It has been commanded: “This do in remembrance of Me” — to annually observe Easter following equinox, finding the 14th day of the Moon, after it (the day of the Old Testament Passover), and from here we calculate the Friday, the Saturday and the Lord's Day (Christian Easter).
If the 14th day of the Moon should occur before equinox, we leave it out and look for another, which should be after equinox; then the other month is counted. If the 14th day of the Moon meets with the Lord's Day, we take the next Lord's Day, in memory thereof that the 14th day is the day of passions, coinciding with the Friday on Calvary.”
The Jewish Passover retains only full moons, while the Christian Easter — also the Resurrection, — wrote and said Pope Victor. In 1582, however, Pope Gregory XIII introduced his own calendar, influenced by the age of the Renaissance. Copernicus was against the reform and the 1583 Council rejected the new calendar.
The Gregorian calendar is historically pernicious and proves to be astronomically unnecessary. From 1900 to 2100 the difference between the two calendars is 13 days. Under the Gregorian calendar, it is difficult to retrieve historic events, astronomic phenomena, it is difficult to alternate lunar and solar equations. One cannot apply the rule concerning celebration of Easter to the Gregorian style. The Orthodox Church cannot accept the Gregorian style. The church celebrates Easter not according to dictates of the Gregorian or Julian calendars, but in accordance with the lunar biblical calendar.
The great indiction, that is the great paschal circle encompassing 532 years, provides for the unity of time in cosmic, historical, liturgical fields as a synthesis of knowledge of calendars; accounts for equinox and full moons, and serves as eternal calendar. The indiction affirms the inviolacy of the week. The Holy Orthodox Church is the sole guardian of the authentic Apostolic tradition.
The Holy Ghost, through the God-inspired Apostles and the Holy fathers, taught the rule of righteousness for all men. Thus, the 7th Apostolic rule reads: “If some person, be he bishop or presbyter, or deacon, should celebrate the feast of Easter before the vernal equinox, together with the Jews let him be cast away from the holy order.”
The rule of the Holy Antioch Council stipulates that those daring to violate the decisions of the Holy and Great Council held in Nicaea, “about the feast of the Salvatory Easter, let them be excommunicated and cast away from the Church. If any of the hierarchs of the Church, be it bishop or presbyter, or deacon, dare to corrupt the people and to rebel against the Churches by conducting Easter with the Jews, such persons does the Holy Church condemn to be estranged from the Church, forbid
conducting services to him and to those who have come in communion with him.”
And Christ the Saviour appeals to every one of us, as He did to Simon John: “Doest thou love Me?” We call: “Our Father” and must remember, that our eternal Fatherland is in Heaven — where the Father is, there the children should be, too. And observance of God’s commandments is a manifestation of love — and to those who have faith, the Lord grants the knowledge of the Resurrection. Easter for the Christians is Christ's Resurrection from the dead.
Easter is a feast of spring and reminds us of the seven days of Creation and the seven days of the Saviour's passions. This is the eighth day — as a symbol of the eternal unsetting day — merging with the first day of Creation — it is the Lord’s day, it follows Saturday and is called the Week. Following the Week — the Sunday — after the Week — comes Monday, and so continues the week — from the week of Creation. And it was after vernal equinox, full moon and the three-day Resurrection. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Source:The Voice of Russia