Tuesday, January 31, 2017

To the Preacher: K.I.S.S.

          For the Orthodox priest, preaching is a fearful responsibility:  the Holy Gospel has just been solemnly chanted in Church, and the assembled people of God have greeted the Lord in their midst with the words, “Glory to You, O Lord, glory to You!”  Then, as if he has something to add to the words of the incarnate God in their midst, the preacher stands up to add a kind of liturgical addendum to the words of Christ.  How nervy is that?
            But that is the priest’s canonical and sacramental responsibility.  The liturgical tradition does not demand that he preach at Vespers or Matins or at the other sacramental occasions of the Church.  But it does demand that he preach at the Eucharist, and the time set for the preaching, from at least the time of St. Justin Martyr in the mid-second century onward, is after the reading of the Gospel.  If he does not preach then, he is remiss, and fails in his duty as a priest in the Church of God.  Pastoral considerations may suggest that he defer this duty until the end of the service when more people are present, but the canonical, liturgical, and historical time set for the homily is immediately after the reading of the Gospel.  This setting reveals the importance of his words:  he is ordained by God to elaborate on the words of Christ our Saviour, explaining them, applying them, and driving them into the hearts of those committed to his pastoral charge.  Leaving the homily to the end of the service detracts from this, and gives the erroneous impression that his words are a kind of appendix to the service, something acceptable, but not essential.  The homily therefore becomes like the announcements which follow it:  they are helpful (maybe) but are a part of the worldly life of the parish, like the coffee hour following or the meeting of the woman’s group on Thursday.  All things being equal, the Liturgy would not be lacking in anything essential if he didn’t preach at all—whereas in actual apostolic fact, the Liturgy would indeed lack something essential if the shepherd did not preach and drive the words of Christ into the hearts of his flock.
            So, the pastor must always preach to his flock.  And he should also remember the words of counsel once given to a preacher in the form of an acronym:  “K.I.S.S”:  “Keep It Short, Stupid”—not very formal or respectful, perhaps, but certainly to the point.  Of course the description “short” is a relative term.  For some people, any homily over ten minutes is not short, and violates the sacred canon of brevity.  St. John Chrysostom would not agree, for his homilies went on for about an hour or so, and people not only did not mind, but applauded him for his lengthy addresses and wonderful eloquence.  When I suggest that preachers keep their homilies short, I mean that they should say exactly what God told them to say, and not a word more.  In the case of St. John Chrysostom, God told him to say things well able to fill an hour or so, and so nobody minded.  The issue is not the clock, but the message and its source.  Did God tell you to say that, or are you just going on under your own steam?  If the latter, then for God’s sake and the sake of the people of God, please stop.
            Preaching is not pastoral reflection or meditation.   It is not the time for the pastor to air his own opinions.  Those opinions may be aired at the coffee hour which follows, if anyone cares.  Preaching is prophecy—a time when the preacher, having heard from God, proclaims what God has told him to his people, with all the authority and power of a prophet of old.  The preacher may not necessarily begin his homily with the introductory words, “Thus saith the Lord”, but his homily should be delivered with the same authority as if he had begun with those words.  Sermon preparation therefore involves seeking God to discover what He wants the preacher to say to his people, building a bridge from the Gospel and the Scriptures to the situation where the congregation finds itself.  The preacher must know both the Scriptures and the congregation.  (This means that guest preachers labour under an almost impossibility difficulty, for they can hardly ever know the latter.)  When the preacher has heard from God, he must treasure that word in this heart and send it forth like a torrent of fire into their hearts.  He should let the fire of the Spirit burn in his heart and let out from his mouth like the spirit of prophecy.  Some might object that this sounds too much like the revivalist Charles Finney.  I would reply that it sounds more like the saint John Chrysostom. 
            The path into the hearts of the people are from the heart through the eyes.  This means that the preacher must look them in the eyes when he preaches to them, and not look to his notes.  Notes for sermons are like training wheels on bicycles:  they are okay when one is learning, but unnecessary when one has learned.  If the preacher uses notes, he will inevitably look at and relate to those notes, and not to his people.  This is unfortunate:  the path the Spirit of God takes is from the fire-filled heart of the preacher, out through his eyes, into the eyes of the parishioner, and down into the parishioner’s heart.  The use of notes can impede this path and can wreck this life-giving process.  Better for the preacher to leave the notes in his pocket, and speak directly from and to the heart.  Better a few words of fire to the heart, than a multitude of words which bounce off the ears and are forgotten by the time the parishioner has driven home.
            The preacher therefore should kneel before God as His prophet, and say, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears”.  His task is to discern what God would say, and to say exactly that and nothing more.  He must keep it as short as God kept it.  He does not need to help God but adding his own opinions and puny rhetoric to the prophetic word.  God’s word is mighty and powerful, and able to convict, convert, and heal.  The preacher himself is nobody.  His dignity and task is that of a channel for the prophetic word, a temporary container for the fire.  It is the fire which matters, not the container.  All the prophets knew this.  Orthodox preachers should remember this as well.

Note:  This article can also be found at the Preachers Institute, at:  preachersinstitute.com/2016/12/07/preacher-k-s-s/

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

On the Virtue of Goodness

           In his list of virtues which comprise the fruit of Spirit working in one’s life, St. Paul lists that of “goodness” (Greek agathosune, αγαθοσυνη) about midway in the list (Galatians 5:22f). One scarcely speaks of goodness as one of the virtues anymore. In our culture describing something as “good” is rather tepid praise; it is like saying something is “okay”, and “good” comes first in our ascending ladder of praise—“good, better, best”. Love, joy, and kindness are praised and admired, but goodness is hardly remembered at all. Indeed, though it stood toward the summit of virtues in the ancient world, our culture replaces “goodness” as the summit of virtues with “tolerance”—a tolerance always subject to the whims of fashion and standing within a world which knows no unchanging moral compass. Those whims might dictate almost anything. One season eating meat is declared unethical, and the next the wearing of fur. But apart from these arbitrary declarations of fashion, pretty much everything is tolerated—except, paradoxically, true goodness.
           That is because true goodness is divine. When a rich young ruler addressed Christ with an idle and unthinking bit of flattery as “good teacher” (Mark 10:17), Christ rebuked the man with the reminder that “no one is good but God alone”. Christ of course did not mean that He was not divine or that goodness was not to be found in the world, but that true goodness was transcendent, luminous, unworldly, and the word was not to be tossed around so casually.
           Goodness, as we see from the words and works of God in the Scriptures, is binary and discriminating. That is, it discriminates virtue from vice, and righteousness from evil. It looks upon evil with loathing, hatred, and disgust, and is filled with anger and wrath against it—or (if one prefers) with moral indignation. The more one is good the greater one’s sense of moral indignation when one encounters instances of sexual slavery, of child abuse, of violence against women and racial oppression, of the greed of the 1% which grinds the faces of the poor and wages exploitive war for the sake of material gain. Anyone who encountered such vice and evil and who remained calm, murmuring, “Oh well, nobody’s perfect” should not be praised for their tolerance, but censured for their lack of moral compass. True goodness rises up in wrath against such evil.
          And in evil’s binary opposite, such goodness rejoices in virtue. When it encounters kindness to the poor, gentleness in the face of brutality, a forgiving spirit which refuses to retaliate against wrong, when it meets with honesty, industry, faithfulness, sexual purity, it exults and pours forth praise. We in the Church reaffirm and celebrate such a binary approach to life every time we sing one of psalms as a church antiphon: “The Lord loves the righteous, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin” (Psalm 146). As the ancient document known as the Didache long ago declared, there are two ways only—the way of life and the way of death, the path of wisdom and that of folly. Goodness discriminates, exulting in the former and abominating the latter. Modern secular society does not have a good grasp on the binary nature of goodness; it gets queasy and nervous whenever evil is denounced. Authentic goodness has been replaced by non-judgmental niceness. (Rather inconsistently, it has no trouble itself denouncing traditional Christianity and anything it considers “non-progressive”.)
          Our challenge as parents and teachers is to help our children to discriminate as well, training them to know instinctively what is worthy of praise and what is worthy of blame. The paths of wisdom and folly are not usually clearly marked in our day, and the path of folly which leads to death often looks superficially like the path of wisdom. A solid education therefore will therefore not simply teach children readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic, but also the even more valuable skills of discerning between virtue and vice, and of recognizing the excellence of the former. But we must do so with open eyes and courageous hearts, for children thus trained will not be welcomed by the world. Moral compromise, not integrity, is valued by the world, and leads to worldly success. (If you doubt this, look at the inner lives of those at the summits of political power, and ask yourself if they achieved those heights without making moral compromises.) True goodness always gives offence, and the notion that if a person is truly good they will be liked and rewarded by the world is nonsense. A good person will always offend those whose lack of goodness and purity are revealed by the goodness of the good person. But children trained to love goodness will choose virtue all the same, preferring the praise of God to the applause of the crowd.
          This goodness, if it is true goodness, is not merely ethical, and has nothing to do with cold moralism with all its self-righteous judgmentalism. It is not the result of keeping abstract rules, but of sowing to the Spirit (Galatians 6:8). It is the fruit of grace, not of self-exertion. Like the good Lord Himself, it is transcendent, divine, luminous. And acquiring such goodness is the only way to find our way home. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

“The Queen James Bible”—Wait, What?

The existence of a “Queen James Bible” is something one might ordinarily expect to find in a recent edition of the satirical news source The Onion or perhaps a copy of Mad Magazine.  But I swear the thing exists.  I discovered it online (of course) when looking through a discussion about which Bible one should use for study.  People had various opinions about which translation was preferable, with some opting for the Orthodox Study Bible, some for the RSV, some for the King James Bible.  One person, in a seasonal spirit of pre-Christmas whimsy, suggested, “How about the Queen James Bible?—LOL”, and obligingly provided a link to said volume.  Turns out the thing actually exists.
            The name of course is an intentional variation on the famous “King James Bible”, King James being the English monarch who authorized an English translation of the Bible for use in his state church in 1611.  (Since it was sole Bible authorized for such use, it is also known more officially as “the Authorized Version”.)  The name of this version was tweaked to reflect the sole reason for its existence—namely altering the traditional rendering of the eight verses found in the King James Bible condemning homosexuality to present an interpretation more congenial to homosexuals and the gay community.  The Queen James is simply the original King James Version as currently available, with the eight offending passages retranslated.  The description of it on Amazon declares that it “is based on the King James Bible, edited to prevent homophobic misinterpretation”.
            I do not know the names of the translators who presided over and produced this work, but a sample of their re-translations may give some idea of their actual credentials.  In the King James Version Leviticus 18:22 reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.”  The re-translation reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination”  (additions italicized).  Molech was a pagan idol, and the idea proffered is that the only problem with the homosexual sex proscribed was that it occurred in the temple of Molech.  Presumably it if occurred in an Israelite bed it would have been quite acceptable.  Or take another example:  the King James Version of Romans 1:26-27 reads, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”   The Queen James renders it, “Their women did change their natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, left of the natural use of the woman, burned in ritual lust, one toward another; Men with men working that which is pagan and unseemly. For this cause God gave the idolators up unto vile affections, receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (additions italicized).  In this reading the problem was not the unnaturalness of the sexual act, but simply its context of ritual idolatry.  The editors admit they have no real idea why Paul thought that lesbian sex was unnatural; they suggest it might have had something to do with pagan dancing.
            It is hardly necessary to spend much time answering such twaddle.  The idea that the Israelite code found in Leviticus which condemned certain sexual practices as abominable (e.g. incest with immediate family, and sex with beasts, in Leviticus 18:6f and 18:23) objected to homosexuality only when it was practiced in a certain religious context is too outlandish to require extended refutation, as is the idea that a first-century Jew like Paul would object to homosexuality only when practiced in a pagan ritual.  Reading in the Bible in its cultural context forbids such forced interpretations.  Moses and Paul may or may not have been on the right path, but one must at least allow them their historical say.  A more honest approach would be for the Queen James editors to acknowledge that Moses and Paul thought homosexual behaviour was abominable and sinful, and simply assert that Moses and Paul were wrong.
            I do not expect that the Queen James Bible will gain much traction, since those who care keenly for the teaching of Scripture are unlikely to spend money ($22.47 in paperback) for the privilege of discovering how the eight offending passages have been re-interpreted.  Expect to see the Queen James Bible go the way of the pet rock (remember those?), and live in memory mostly as an amusing fad and cultural curiosity.  The real significance of the Queen James Bible is as a witness to the exegetical desperation of the homosexual community when confronted with the actual teaching of Scripture. 
The actual choice is not between the King James and the Queen James Bibles, but between those who embrace the historic meaning of the Scriptures whatever its current unpopularity and those prepared to embrace it selectively according to the canons of contemporary fashion—i.e. between believing the Bible and essentially chucking it into the dumpster whenever it says something one doesn’t want to hear.  But if one is not prepared to be rebuked and corrected by Scripture, then why read it at all in any version?  Our secular media provides all the encouragement and confirmation of a secular lifestyle one could wish for.  The only reason for turning to the Bible at all is to hear something else, a kind of minority report from the Kingdom.  To exegetically photoshop the bits that do not conform to our secular lifestyle so that they now do conform to it defeats the whole purpose of feeding upon Scripture in the first place.  Worldly encouragement we can get in abundance from the World.  It is the goal of Scripture to offer something else to those who have become tired of worldliness and who long to find a better way.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Tale of Tom Harpur

Tom Harpur is dead at 87, having crossed over into the other world on January 2 of this year.  Most Americans may not have heard of the Reverend Thomas Harpur, who was more famous in his native Canada than down south.  He was born in Toronto to an evangelical family, studied at the University of Toronto, and at the evangelical Anglican seminary Wycliffe College in that city.  He was ordained a priest in the Anglican diocese of Toronto and served parishes there and later taught Greek and New Testament as a professor at his old Wycliffe College.  Eventually he left the ecclesiastical world for the world of journalism, working as religion editor at the Toronto Star newspaper.  He authored a number of books, ten of which became Canadian best-sellers. 
He is perhaps best known for his controversial book The Pagan Christ, in which he argues that Jesus never existed, but that the New Testament simply retells stories from such ancient civilizations as Egypt which were never meant to be taken as historical, but rather as the mythical allegory of every man’s inner journey.  (Numerous alleged examples are cited to show that the Christ figure is simply another version of Horus.)  The Fathers of the third and fourth centuries were the culprits who popularized the then new and erroneous view that Jesus was a real person and that the Gospels were intended by their authors to be read as history.  The book makes a great show of scholarship, and is smoothly written.  Its notion that the ideas of Judaism and Christianity were drawn from Egyptian religion is dependent upon such old works as those produced by Godfrey Higgins (b. 1771), Gerald Massey (b. 1828) and especially Alvin Kuhn (b. 1880) who Harpur praises as “the most erudite, most eloquent, and most convincing—both intellectually and intuitively—of any modern writer on religion I have encountered in a lifetime dedicated to such matters.  To meet him through his books is to be confronted by a towering polymath whom history has yet to recognize fully in all his brilliance” (p. 9).   Unrecognized indeed.  In fact contemporary Egyptologists have hardly ever heard of these authors.  Kuhn was not an Egyptologist at all, but a high school language teacher with an enthusiasm for Theosophy, someone who self-published most of his books—in other words, a well-educated crank. 
Not surprisingly given his sources, the book contains a number of howlers.  One is told (p. 6) that “the letters KRST appear on Egyptian mummy coffins many centuries BCE and this word, when the vowels are filled in, is really Karast or Krist, signifying Christ”.  In actual fact, Egyptologists tell us, “KRST” is the word for “burial, embalmment, mummify”, which may account for the appearance of the word on a coffin.  One could continue, pointing out that pretty much all the alleged parallels of Christ with Horus are false (there is no evidence, for example, that Horus was virgin-born, was a “fisher of men” or had twelve disciples), but one gets the idea.  As one Egyptologist explained, “Egyptology has the unenviable distinction of being one of those disciplines that almost anyone can lay claim to, and the unfortunate distinction of being probably the one most beleaguered by false prophets”—such the work of men like Kuhn, whom the Egyptologist dismissed as “fringe nonsense”.
Why would someone as brilliant and educated as Harpur (who was a Rhodes Scholar who studied at Oxford) produce such stuff?  One can only guess, of course, but some insight might be gathered from an interview the Reverend Harpur gave in 2011 to the United Church Observer.  In this interview he confesses that during his years of parish ministry he was “thoroughly miserable” because he “felt stifled by the institution [of the Church], by my inability to say what was in the depths of my heart”.  His move from the ecclesiastical realm to that of journalism he describes as “getting out from under the ball and chain of the church”.  There, he said, “such balderdash [is] handed out in churches every Sunday; it’s why I can’t go to church.  It just makes me angry”.  It appears that Harpur experienced a crisis of faith and conscience, and reached the place where he could no longer stand having to say things to parishioners (such the basics of the Christian Faith) that he no longer believed.  His hard about-face and embrace of increasingly radical stances seem to have been an attempt to undo all that he had done, a violent reaction and attempt to run as far as possible in the opposite direction. 
He was very successful in his attempts to denounce the faith in which he was once ordained to preserve and promote.  He had his own radio and television programmes (“Harpur’s Heaven and Hell”) and many best-sellers.  His book The Pagan Christ was turned into a CBC documentary in 2008, which won the Platinum Remi Award at the Houston International Film Festival and the Gold Camera Award at the US International Film and Video Festival in Redondo Beach, California.
What about Tom Harpur now?  Short of a word from the Lord, one can never have precise certainty about the eternal fate of any man.  That said, the Scriptural warnings against apostasy and rejection of Christ must count for something, and perhaps one needn’t be a born gambler to bet that the author of Harpur’s Heaven and Hell is now getting a more uncomfortable view of those realities than he had once thought possible.  One thinks of Screwtape’s reference to “the peculiar kind of clarity which Hell affords”.  But our guesses about the final fate of this man for whom Christ died have little real value and are ultimately none of our business anyway.  Of somewhat greater value are the lessons that his life of apostasy can teach those of us who are still in via.
One of those lessons involves noting how easily and heartily the world is ready to applaud Christian apostasy.  One can see this with a quick glance at the “customer reviews” section of the Amazon site selling Harpur’s The Pagan Christ.  Some reviewers recognized the book for the nonsense it is.  One said that it “staggers from one huge embarrassing error to another”; another described it as “made up of recycled theories and ideas rooted in the ‘comparative religions’ approach—theories and ideas that were largely rejected in the field 40-50 years ago, and which today are discredited as false and exaggerated”.   But on the whole the reviewers loved it, praising it as “true Christianity”, “an excellent book”, “a book to change lives!”, “a must read!”, “refreshing addition to the thinking man’s library”, “this is a book for all times!”, “earth shaking information”.  A full 70% of reviewers gave it a 4 or 5 star rating out of 5.  As mentioned above, the documentary based on the book won international awards.  Mr. Harpur’s book, like many things he put his journalistic hand to, was wildly successful.
Though it is unlikely you or I will ever be the recipients of such applause and reward, it remains true that the same world stands ready to applaud us should we ever publicly reject the Christian Faith in favour of secularism.  Telling the world it is wrong, sinful, and in need of a Saviour will garner few rewards.  Rewards come more easily one’s way the further one gets from the Christian Faith.  That is why The World has found its place in the list of temptations facing the sturdy Christian soul alongside The Flesh and The Devil.  Its applause can easily turn our heads if we let it.  We must remember the Lord’s warning, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26).
The other lesson we can learn from the tale of Tom Harpur is how gradually is the slide from faith to apostasy.  One does not go to bed a devout and dedicated disciple of Christ and awaken the next morning to find oneself an apostate with an aversion to church-going.  The journey from faith to faithlessness is a long and gradual one—indeed, if the Enemy is doing his job well, so gradual one will hardly notice it.  The temptation, Scripture tells us, is less likely to be in surrendering to a sudden volte-face regarding our faith as in a gradual “drifting away” from it (Hebrews 2:1). The truth is we are never standing still; we are either moving continually towards Christ or away from Him.  The only way to avoid slipping backwards is to run forward.  St. Paul told us this long ago:  “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).  Standing still is not an option, and apostasy will remain a possibility until we ourselves cross over into the other world.  Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Papal Calendar?

Christmas Day and the post-Christmas season usually bring with them a number of things not overwhelming helpful—Boxing Day stampedes, post-Christmas let-down, unwelcome news when stepping on the bathroom scale, and polemical digs about those benighted people using the “papal calendar” instead of “the Church’s Traditional Calendar”—i.e. the Julian calendar.  It can be rather confusing to those outside of Orthodoxy, especially when they have been told that Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, thirteen days later than Christians of the West.  When I tell them that many Orthodox celebrate Christmas with other Christians on December 25 and that even those Orthodox who use the Julian calendar also celebrate Christmas on December 25 but just don’t get around to that date until January 7, their eyes tend to glaze over.  I suspect they conclude that we are all a bit crazy, and the mysteries of the Orthodox calendar partake of the same mind-numbing incomprehensibility as our doctrine of the Trinity, so that for us three=1, and December 25=January 7.  In fairness to them, it can be a bit confusing.
            In sorting the thing out, it is important not to let triumphalist rhetoric detach us from the sober facts of history.  For example, contrary to what some fervent advocates of the Julian calendar sometimes say, the Council of Nicea did not in fact mandate the use of the Old Calendar, or in fact any particular civil calendar.  Though it does not show up in the twenty extant canons of that Council, most historians nonetheless assert that the Council did however mandate something regarding the computation of Pascha so that all the Church could fast and feast together.  The history of the Council is complex and those wanting to learn more about its intricacies may read about them here.
          Briefly, the Church eventually decided that Pascha would be held on the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.  That of course left the astronomical heavy lifting of determining exactly when the spring equinox fell to others.  Such technicalities and the question of which civil calendar the Church used were not broached by the Council Fathers. The Church calendar was a grid, something to be placed over the civil calendar of the day to tell Christians when to celebrate certain feasts.  It would say, for example, that Christmas must be celebrated on December 25, that Theophany must be celebrated on January 6, and that Transfiguration must be celebrated on August 6.  The question about exactly when December 25, January 6, and August 6 fell were matters for the astronomers producing civil calendars, not for non-astronomical bishops leading their flocks in worship. 
            In the centuries following, it was apparent to all that the civil calendar upon which the Church’s calendar was based was astronomically out of whack and becoming more out of whack with the passing of time and needed to be corrected and made more astronomically accurate.  The job, of course, was one for the universities, and their help was solicited by the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century.  A suggestion for correction was made by the University of Salamanca in 1515, which was not acted upon.  In 1577 certain mathematicians were asked to weigh in.  Others also weighed in, including one Christopher Clavius, who argued the technicalities in a door-stopper of a book stretching to 800 pages.  The Pope of the day, Gregory XIII, thought this was the way to go, and mandated the new corrected calendar and system for use in the Roman Church in 1582.
Of course this had no legal weight outside the Roman Church, and it was up to countries to use or not use the new more accurate calendar according to their secular wishes.  Eventually though everyone in Europe and beyond decided that accuracy, even if originating within the Roman Church, was preferable to inaccuracy, and so country after country signed on and began using the calendar for as their civil calendar.  Not surprisingly the Catholic countries signed on first, with Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and the Catholic Low Countries adopting it in 1582.  Bohemia signed on two years later in 1584.  Prussia signed on in 1610, and the Protestant Low Countries came around in 1700.  Protestant Britain adopted it in 1752, followed the next year by Sweden and Finland.  Japan adopted it in 1873, and Egypt in 1875.  China and Albania signed on in 1912, the USSR in 1918, followed by Greece in 1923 and Turkey in 1926.  Of course using the corrected calendar as their civil calendar did not mean also adopting it as a religious one, and Russia (for example) continued to use the old Julian calendar for its church feasts.  Such a bi-calendrical usage introduced a kind of liturgical schizophrenia into life, so that one might place one’s order for Christmas chocolate on December 25 and not actually get around to celebrating and eating the chocolate until the Church’s December 25 which was January 7.  The simple question, “What day is it today?” could no longer be answered until one had some context and knew whether the questioner referred to the day as reckoned in street or in the Church. 
Those who insist that the Orthodox Church must use the Julian calendar as the basis for the Church feasts are unfazed by this.  They point out that there are advantages in using the Julian calendar despite its acknowledged inaccuracies and the confusion it can bring.  Foremost among them is the fact that using the Julian calendar stresses the difference between Orthodoxy and the rest of the Christian world—in other words, that the calendar becomes a symbolic bulwark against an ecumenism which would dissolve Orthodoxy’s purity and make it just another Christian denomination with no more claim to be the true Church than anyone else.   
That is true, and its value should not be dismissed out of hand.  But it should be also acknowledged that one can retain Orthodoxy’s historic claim to be the true Church and resist a false and corrosive ecumenism while still using the new corrected calendar.  It is nonsense to describe the new calendar as “the papal calendar” simply because it originated in the Roman Church, as if using the corrected calendar somehow allies one with the papists.  Staunch Scottish Calvinists have been using that calendar for some time now and there is zero evidence that using it has made them more papal and less Calvinist, Presbyterian, or dour than they were before.  (They may indeed be less Calvinist or dour than before, but that can hardly be laid at the feet of their calendar.  And they are hardly more papal.)  Describing the corrected calendar as “the papal calendar” is like describing German beer as “Lutheran beer” because Germany is filled with Lutherans, or describing the kilt as a “Presbyterian vestment” because Scotland is filled with Presbyterians.  The calendar is used by Protestant Scotland, Shintoist Japan, Muslim Turkey and atheistic China.  The issue is not and never has been the provenance of the calendar, but its intrinsic merits and accuracy.  The corrected calendar is not “papal” in the sense that the Tridentine Mass is papal—i.e. that it is the badge of those pledging loyalty to the bishop of Rome.  Describing it as “papal” is neither sensible nor helpful.
One of course admits that it would be a good thing if the entire Orthodox world were using the same calendar.  But this argument cuts both ways, and is as much an argument for those using the Julian calendar to adopt the new corrected one as vice-versa.  It is true that most of the Orthodox world uses the Julian calendar, but that is simply because one of its autocephalous members (Russia) is so large.  Such things cannot be decided simply by counting heads.
At the present time it seems as if the Orthodox world will have to survive with the use of two calendars, so that it keeps its solar feasts such as Christmas at different times.  (The Paschal cycle with its dates for the Lenten fast and Pascha and Pentecost are pretty much the same throughout the Orthodox world.)  We can easily survive such diversity with the exercise of a little good will.  And surely, such good will is large part of what Christmas is all about?