Why We Follow the Old (Julian) Calendar

Christminster follows the Old (Julian) Calendar because it is the tradition of the majority of Orthodox Christians throughout the world and throughout the centuries. And, of course, we follow it because it is the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church, both at home and abroad. Here in the United States and Canada, one easily overlooks the fact that the vast majority of Orthodox outside North America still follow the Julian Calendar. Thus our maintaining this tradition reflects our community and fellowship with the worldwide community of Orthodox Christians. This does not diminish, in our estimation, our respect for and fellowship with those Orthodox, in this country and elsewhere, who follow the new calendar. We hope, in return, that we will be respected for our own observance.

We do not see the Old Calendar as inappropriate for the western rite, since
the western rite is simply the Orthodox rite of the west before the Great
Schism, and the Old Calendar is the calendar of the Orthodox west.
Naturally we regard the Gregorian/papal revision of the calendar as
possessing no more validity than any other papal revisions of theology,
liturgy or custom. Following the Old Calendar actually helps to distinguish
western-rite Orthodox Christians from non-Orthodox western Christians.

It can be a blessing to find ourselves out of step at times – especially at
Christmas – with the rhythms of contemporary life. This is especially beneficial
in two ways. First, it reminds us that while we must live in our secular
culture, we do not owe it our ultimate allegiance. This is an appropriate
reminder not just for monastics, but for all Orthodox Christians. Secondly,
it permits us to celebrate Christmas in a quieter atmosphere, unsullied by
commercial and consumerist diversions.

Additionally, we maintain the tradition of ancient Glastonbury, whose Thorn Bush still sends forth its Christmas blooms, not on December 25th but on January 7th. As Dr. Alexander Roman points out, the Old Calendar represents a venerable Anglican tradition: “The Anglican Church refused the Gregorian Calendar on these grounds, in addition to its anti-papalism. This is why there are still some Anglican parishes that celebrate Christmas on January 6th to this day, especially inWales and Scotland that refers to it as ‘Yule.’ The Christmas Thorn of Glastonbury continues to flower on January 6th or 7th and it is at this time, and not on December 25th, that the Thorn is cut and sent as a special Christmas present to Queen Elizabeth the Second. “

St. Alban

The Western Rite Calendar according to the Use of Christ the Saviour Monastery in the Russian Orthodox Church at the Oratory of Our Lady of Glastonbury.

Christ the Saviour Monastery; an Introduction


Christminster is a western-rite monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church established in Rhode Island in 1993 with the blessing of Archbishop Hilarion, then Bishop of Manhattan, who authorized Dom James M. Deschene (formerly the Prior of the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Royal) to continue the western-rite mission under the title of Christ the Saviour Monastery – or Christminster.

Founded in 1910 as an Old Catholic monastery, Mount Royal’s mission and work continued under Old Catholic auspices until 1962. In that year the community was received into the patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church by its American exarch, Bishop Dositheus Ivanchenko of New York. For several years, the monks of Mount Royal staffed a western-rite chapel in the Russian Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Manhattan, later moving to Woodstock, New York. Bishop Dositheus’ successor, Archbishop John Wendland, blessed and confirmed the western-rite observance and mission of Mount Royal and the leadership of its Abbot, Dom Augustine Whitfield.

In 1975, under Abbot Augustine, the monastery was received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia by Archbishop Nikon Rklitzsky, who again authorized and blessed its mission and observances. In 1993, upon the retirement of Abbot Augustine, Christminster was founded in Rhode Island with the blessing of Bishop Hilarion to carry on the work of western-rite Orthodoxy in the ROCOR Synod, and, since May 2007, in the officially reunited Russian Orthodox Church.

From its beginnings, this work and mission have been guided by the spirit of Saint Benedict and his Holy Rule – the sixth-century foundation document of western Orthodox monasticism. It was the vision of Mount Royal’s founders – a vision firmly adhered to under Abbot Augustine and lovingly maintained at Christminster – to preserve the contemplative and eremitical dimension of the monastic life as much as possible. Thus one goal of its mission – still awaiting fulfillment – is the acquisition of a suitable, secluded property ensuring tranquillity and silence, and providing hermitages for monks and guests, with common room, refectory, library, office and work space, and a monastic church in which the Liturgy of the Mass and the Hours are celebrated in full on behalf of and for the whole church.

In the meantime, Christminster remains committed to maintaining the fullness and purity of the Orthodox faith in its western-rite tradition. On one occasion, Abbot Augustine had confided to then Bishop – now Saint – John Maximovitch some of the hardships of promoting western-rite Orthodoxy. Saint John’s response was vehement and memorable: “Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must also be eastern. The West was Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies.”

Encouraged and inspired by these words, Christminster lovingly maintains the western Orthodox rite, each day celebrating the Mass according to the ancient rite dating from the time when the west was still firmly Orthodox in its faith and observance. The Hours of the Divine Office are celebrated as set forth in the Rule of Saint Benedict. The ancient chants of the western church are used in all services, sung in a traditional, liturgical English, and occasionally in Latin.

To all Christian believers seeking to recover and maintain the ancient Orthodox tradition of the west – the tradition that nurtured such familiar saints as Benedict, Boniface, Bridget, Aidan, Patrick, Augustine, Monica, Columba, and a thousand more – Christminster offers its prayers, its services and its welcome.