Two Questions and One Long Answer on the Value of Tradition… and Obedience

I received both an email and a Youtube comment over the past couple of days with rather similar themes, so I am putting them up here with a response for the sake of others who may be curious as to the “right thing to do”. As I am neither priest nor pastor, I do not give spiritual advice. What I can do as an apologist is educate, and so I hope this answer is edifying.

First, the questions. Here’s the first:

Hi Deacon Joseph

I followed your advice and read around 20-25 pages by Overbeck and highlighted what’s important or what I found personally interesting

As well I tried to follow your advice of going to a parish I have one in mind but I’m afraid transportation would be an issue my family is “overwhelming” in support of vaccines and always bug me for I didn’t or not wish to get it.

As well the parish is Russian, my family background is Ukrainian and they used to go a Ukrainian Constantinople parish but for me personally they are way too liberal and under the state

I had an idea I go behind my families back and email the Russian priest for their laws, restrictions and tell them my case and hopefully arrange some transportation with my family knowing

What are your thoughts on this? -A.

And the second, with similar thoughts:

Dear Father Deacon Joseph,

Do you recommend that people like me who are “stuck” with a modernist, new calendarist Orthodox parish being the only one to attend, make a switch to the Patristic old calendar in their own homes without causing a stir? Does this solve problems or only create more? I am inspired by the example of Eldress Myrtidiotissa of Kliessoura in this. – T.W.

I am answering both of these questions together because they both deal with the question of understanding tradition, as well as the virtue of obedience.

In the first place, the tradition of the Church is a gift of God.  In other words Orthodox Christians do and should treat our sacred tradition as a gift. Therefore anything that changes or takes away from that for any reason is literally taking a gift that ultimately comes from God and withholding it from the faithful. This applies to everything from our canons and rules and calendar to our fasts, our feasts, how we pray and ultimately how we live. The sacred calendar is the product of thousands of years of Saints adorning the feasts of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we celebrate regularly every year. Therefore it should be obvious that taking away from that tradition is as far as I can see a theft of the tradition from the faithful (and the priests lead the faithful), and they have a right to be upset about it.

However, in both these cases, we see another overriding question, and that is one of obedience to authority– in one case, to parents, in the other, to the only available parish.

To answer the first case: as a clergyman and a parent, I would never advise disobedience to your parents unless they place you at severe risk of physical or spiritual harm, even when you are old enough to make your own decisions (after which you may politely disagree.) Indeed, honoring one’s father and mother is one of the commandments. Even if I was a horrible person and advised otherwise, I assume any relatively intelligent priest would immediately balk at the idea and advise you to speak to your parents about your feelings on the matter. If you are underage, this would be not only an unwise undertaking on the part of the clergy, it could also be illegal. If what you truly want is to go to the Russian parish, I would advise to be firm and consistent in your position with your parents while respecting their decisions. It would make things more difficult for you in the short term, but in the long term they may see the wisdom of your position. They may not. Unfortunately, they are the parents and have to make life changing decisions for you. You may have to be patient, and be firm in your position; you may even have to discuss it together with their priest. But if your firmness is grounded in obedience, your parents will appreciate it and regard your obedience as maturity.

On the matter of vaccines, however, the facts are on your side: you can even show them handy FDA warnings like this and articles about dead young people who took the vaccine. No loving parent– none– would place their child at risk of harm unless there was a severely good reason. While the media may trumpet the need for parents to jab their kids, the numbers don’t seem to bear out that they are actually doing so; if your parents haven’t forced you to get the vaccine, they are more concerned for your well-being than what the state wants. Keep it that way!

As for Overbeck, this is the book I recommended.

To answer the second case: as a True Orthodox, I cannot ever see the use of the “New Calendar.” I don’t understand its use. None of the Bishops nor most of the priests and clergy I know or communicate with use it. My entire experience with the dual calendar was staring at one given to me as a gift, confused, as a Roman Catholic after visiting an OCA parish. I didn’t understand how Pascha was on the “Greek day” but all the saints I recognized that were on it were on the same day as mine (I also didn’t understand the concept of the Typikon– it’s here, bottom right— or Paschalion then). As someone on the way to formally becoming a Uniate (request sent to Rome and everything) before I became Orthodox, I was attending Uniate parishes also using the full Orthodox Calendar. And for the year or so I was in the official Church when I left ROAC, I attended an ACROD parish– that was also on the Church Calendar. So I cannot really understand your request: as an Orthodox Christian, what’s keeping you from using the traditional calendar at all? The Sundays are on the Paschal cycle save for commemorations and an occasional hymn.

Here, obedience comes into play again. Your question has not given me an indication of how you regard your priest. If you regard him as a true priest who is not heretical, then it behooves you just out of the principle of sacred obedience and respect for the clergy to talk to him about your concerns. Tell him you’d like to use the traditional Church calendar at home (shoot, ask him which one to use, he probably gets parish calendars every year from the other parishes that he doesn’t use). Be unashamed of the tradition of the Church wherever you are and with whomever you speak: I’ve seen even OCA parishes use dual calendars in the years I have been Orthodox. In other words, your small effort may have results that can change the minds of others, and bring more people to embrace tradition as well.

Now, if you regard the priest as a heretic, well, that’s something to discuss with the Bishop, and unfortunately that may mean that your life will undergo some change (priests usually reflect the position of their Bishop). However, it is not your task to help save their souls, but the other way around. You may have to attend a mission at a distance. It all really depends on your situation, and I don’t have enough knowledge to academically advise, I’ll simply answer your question directly:

Why wouldn’t you? It’s your property as an Orthodox Christian.