During an interview on Radio Free Europe, the Father and Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav shared some of his thoughts about the whole Church moving the celebration of religious holidays for once and for all from the ancient Julian Calendar to the more widely-accepted Gregorian Calendar.
He begins by insisting that the celebration of the Nativity of Christ – Christmas – is not a matter of a date. It is a matter of experiencing certain events…. experiencing God’s presence among us. We need to find the [right] paths of transition to the Gregorian (“new”) Calendar.
- Bishop Peter’s Christmas Greetings
- Fr. Paul Berezniuk’s reflection on Christmas
- Christmas Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav
“We must realize that we must make such a move together so that the change of calendar would not ruin the internal unity of the Church”. His Beatitude did observe, however, that a large portion of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in many corners of the world already celebrates Christmas on December 25th. He then went on to greet those that do with, “Christ is Born! May the Lord God that is born today in Bethlehem, be our hope and our strength to build a better future!”
The Head of the Church, went on to explain that when we talk about a change to the date of Christmas what it really means in the change to the entire calendar. Besides Christmas, it would involve a change to many other important feast dates, like the Protection of the Mother of God (Pokrova) on October 14 (Julian, but October 1st on the Gregorian calendar). This would also mean that Theophany (Epiphany) on which we celebrate the baptism of Christ in the Jordan would no longer be January 19th, but on January 6th. The visit from St. Nicholas would happen on December 6th, not on the 19th as it is according to the Julian Calendar. [ed. To those who already celebrate according to the Gregorian calendar this might seem like a major issue or a concern at all, but it is to those that have held these days as special and sacred their entire life… as did their ancestors. Furthermore, these were dates confirmed by great fathers and saints in the history of the Church.* It would seem that a great authority or grave reason would be required to change such historic feast days.]
The transition to a different calendar depends a lot on the consciousness of the people themselves: that people would understand that the transition to another style does not mean moving to the wrong dates. It is about certain changes that would facilitate the better celebration of certain events
“One concept is that of a neo-julian calendar, where the so-called ‘immovable’ (fixed-date) feasts – Christmas, for example – are celebrated according to the new style – i.e. according to the Gregorian calendar. While the celebration of the ‘moveable’ feasts that can change every year depending on the Easter cycle – including Easter itself – is determined by the old, Julian method for determining that date.”
According to His Beatitude, this is really a disciplinary matter that can be determined by ecclesiastical authority. In as much as this question only concerns the calendar and does not concern the immutable essence of the Christian Faith, it can be changed. But this this must serve a particular purpose. “The transition to a different calendar depends a lot on the consciousness of the people themselves: that people would understand that the transition to another style does not mean moving to the wrong dates. It is about certain changes that would facilitate the better celebration of certain events”