Monday, June 8, 2009

until next year

Once again, we come to the great parting of the ways between Orthodox believers on the "Old Calendar" and those on the "New Calendar." The 13-day lag, of course, is with us year-round, since the fixed calendar never really stops. But for those blessed 18 weeks--more than a third of the year--we all share in common the movable feasts and fasts.

The movable calendar starts, at a minimum, ten weeks before Pascha and extends eight weeks after. The four Pre-Lenten Sundays include: Publican and Pharisee, Prodigal Son, Last Judgment, and Expulsion from Eden. Fasting is forbidden during the first week, regular during the second (ending with Meatfare Sunday), and vegetarian during the third (ending with Cheesefare Sunday).

Lent starts with Clean Week, the Monday after Cheesefare. Strict fasting continues for 40 days, including five Sundays: Triumph of Orthodoxy, Gregory Palamas, Exaltation of the Cross, Ladder of Divine Ascent, and Mary of Egypt.

The 40-day fast of Lent ends on Friday, followed by Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, and the even stricter fast of Holy Week. Pascha follows on Sunday, then Bright Week, with fasting forbidden. Normal fasting resumes after Thomas Sunday, the first of six Sundays identified between Pascha and Pentecost: Thomas, Myrrhbearing Women, Paralytic, Samaritan Woman, Blind Man, and Holy Fathers.

The Feast of Ascension always falls on the Thursday before Holy Fathers, exactly 40 days after Pascha. Pentecost follows, on the 50th day after Pascha, then fasting is forbidden for a week until the Sunday of All Saints. That Monday starts the Apostles' Fast, which lasts until the Feast of Peter and Paul on June 29. This fast bridges the gap back to the fixed calendar and thus marks the end of the movable feasts. It's always 13 days longer on the Old Calendar than the New, and the rest of the year is just more of the same.

At least we have this much in common, but it still seems a high price to pay so we can celebrate Christmas on Western time.


  1. Don't forget that this 13-day head start also eliminates the Apostles' Fast altogether some years. I've heard it suggested that this is one of the strongest arguments in favour of the New Calendar! ;-)

  2. Yeah, I know. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only fast we can do that with just by following the New Calendar. Though the "Thanksgiving is America's only religious holiday" argument helps. (I suppose you Old Calendar folks haven't even thought about that one, since your Nativity Fast doesn't start early enough to care.) Apostles is kind of a throw-away fast anyway. Who really makes a big deal out of Ss. Peter & Paul, unless it happens to be your patronal feast?

  3. Of course, for us on the Old Calendar the 4th of July is a fasting day. It's true we get Thanksgiving but there are years when even that day falls on the very beginning of the Nativity Fast. I remember it happenening at least once or twice. What's worse, many times the Nativity Fast starts on Saturday, meaning after T-giving we're given no time to eat the leftovers.

    Plus, am I wrong or do many Greek and maybe OCA, Antiochian, etc. churches give a dispensation on that day?

    Regarding the Apostles' Fast, it has been suggested that it be a set 2-week or even 1 week fast before the feast, similar to the Dormition Fast.

  4. Yes, that's what I was alluding to with the "Thanksgiving is America's only religious holiday" argument. On that basis, our Antiochian priest (not sure whether this comes from the bishop or not) says to enjoy the feast (though a little moderation still wouldn't hurt). Which smooths things over with family, I suppose, but it also means that we never have time for leftovers :-)