A Tale of Two Calendars

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Corporate Prayer Resources

On this day in 1582 Pope Gregory III instituted his calendar reform by resetting the date from October 5th to October 15th. Not everyone agreed.

Most agreed that the calendar was badly in need of reform. This was because the calendar in use, developed by Julius Cesar, had leap years every four years based on the assumed length of the year at 365.25 days. However, the actual length of the year is 365.2422 days and over fifteen centuries that small difference threw the calendar out of kilter. Gregory’s solution, removing ten days and eliminating leap years on century (00) years, reforms the calendar for the next 3000 years or so.

The problem with these reforms was that they came about 100 years to late and landed in the middle of the religious wars in Europe. So at first only the Roman Catholic countries accepted the reform. Protestants rejected the new calendar, as did the Eastern Orthodox. Thus, the scandal of division caused there to be two calendars: the “Old Style” Julian and the “New Style” Gregorian.

Gradually the wisdom of Pope Gregory’s reform took hold as the religious wars faded into the past. By the end of the 18th century Protestant Europe had adopted the reform and operated on the same calendar. None of the Eastern Orthodox churches adopted the reform until after World War I, but even then the old style calendar was retained for the religious calendar. And the churches in Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia and some Greek monasteries continue to use the Julian Calendar. As a result the Eastern Orthodox celebrate Christmas and Easter at a different time than the Catholics and Protestants.

Our prayers of course are not focused on the two calendars, but instead are focused on the Christian divisions exposed by the two calendars. If we can move into a true Christ centered unity between Christians, the calendar will take care of itself.

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