Met. Paisios Sheds Light on Old Calendarism
NEW YORK – His Excellency Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana, abbot of the Patriarchal Stavropegial Monastery of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou in Astoria, has taken confessions from hundreds of people. But in a recent interview with the National Herald, he made his own public confession to the National Herald.
He spoke openly and, at times, with a sense of stringency towards himself and his former capacity as a member of the Genuine Orthodox Christian movement.
Entering the Patriarchate was an ”ecclesiological resurrection,” Metropolitan Paisios said, adding that he reached out to the GOC, especially to Metropolitan Pavlos of St. Markella’s Cathedral in Astoria, to rejoin the Church proper.
He also said that both he and Bishop Vikentios of Apameia have turned away from being ”rivals of the Church” and have now become its public heralds.
SEVEN BLESSED YEARS
Asked about his sense of the past seven years since the St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery and its metochia (monastic dependencies) joined the Church, his eyes lit up: ”These have been seven blessed years, filled with heavenly blessings. We have been blessed by the Lord to belong to the Mother Church, to serve it and to be its humble hierarchs,” he said.
Metropolitan Paisios confessed that both he and Bishop Vikentios have been ”resurrected” during this period. ”We were living in a state of spiritual narcosis and the Holy Mother Church (of Constantinople) took us and shaped us spiritually, from the beginning, and gave us a firm sense of foundation.”
Asked about how he let so many years go by as a member of the Genuine Orthodox Christian Church he said he still asks himself the same question. ”I wonder how we, Bishop Vikentios and I, let ourselves fall into the hands of the old calendarist movement for so long. We were part of an endless ecclesiological and ecclesiastical condition. I wonder why we were carrying all this weight for all those years? In order to belong to what? Nothing? We woke up and asked ourselves, ‘where are we going’? ”
Divisiveness among the various old calendarist communities, of which the St. Irene Chrysovalantou used to be one, spurred Metropolitan Paisios and Bishop Vikentios to reconcile with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople.
”We were troubled by the fact that, in the old calendarist movement, there are constant separations and division. We crossed ourselves and said we must resurrect and reposition ourselves,” Metropolitan Paisios said.
There have been ”absolutely no regrets” about the decision to abandon their former association and join the Church, he said.
”No, we only feel a deep satisfaction. When one is resurrected, one can only feel a sense of gladness as wide as the Heavens. There are moments when we feel how small we are, and we are humbled that God allowed us to rejoin His Church, even though we had been fighting against Her for all those years. The Church has the power to heal and to restore one to life, for we were previously dead. We were in a dying state, ecclesiologically speaking. We were living in a world foreign to the world of the Church,” he added.
Asked about those who followed him for many years and how they are feeling today, Metropolitan Paisios compared his personal sense of fulfillment with theirs: ”They are now part of a family and are enjoying unity after a time of division. They now celebrate together and participate in the sacramental life of the Church,” he said.
The Metropolitan avoided answering questions regarding the nature of the old calendarist movement and what it really is all about, however, explaining that he is waiting for the Mother Church to give him the green light to disclose the circumstances of his experience as a member of the GOC movement.
”What I have to reveal would cause an earthquake in the foundations of the GOC community. I can now only say this: old calendarism began as a pious movement. We can not ignore that. I personally met many holy people, priests with an ecclesiastical conscience who somehow found themselves in the old calendarist church. But when those people left it, old calendarism was joined by others who have turned it into a sort of trade. One can only call it christemporia (i.e., a bartering of Christ). What else can one say of profiting from piety? They present themselves as ?Genuine Orthodox Christians,? but as it is, they have not left anything standing canonically; they have destroyed everything. I recall a particular hierarch who once said that the GOC Christians should be called bulldozers because they destroy everything that is holy and blessed. That man had the strength to ridicule the GOC,” he said.
”Unfortunately, there are many parties within the GOC, around 13 as we speak. If it was just one party, we would be able to approach it and have an open dialogue,” he added.
He said he used to belong to the party of Chrysostomos Kiousis, ”the so-called Archbishop. He came from Afksentios, and then Florinis Chrysostomos Kavouridis and Archangelos Pappas, and so on. Today, some pious old calendarists are themselves deeply ashamed of what has become of their Church,” he said.
Paisios then compared Greek old calendarism with that of Bulgaria, Moscow and Agion Oros (Mount Athos), saying that, unlike many Greeks, the Bulgarian, Russian and Athonite old calendarists ”have always maintained their communion with the Mother Church.”
He recalled that, when he and Bishop Vikentios rejoined the Church, they had to be reordained, since their former priesthood was not ecclesiastically valid.
STATE OF DENIAL
”When I was convinced through documents and strong arguments posed about the aposchismenous (those who are separated from the body of the Church), and when canonists informed me that old calendarism does not have Apostolic succession, I just dropped my head and wept because I realized that, for all those years, I had been in a state of denial and had the impression that I was a canonical bishop of the Church. I then placed myself at the mercy of the Mother Church and said, ?as Mother Church wishes,? ” Metropolitan Paisios said.
The Metropolitan conceded that all these years he was a ”rasoforemenos laikos (lay person who wears cassocks): As the Fathers and the holy canons claim, yes, that?s all I was. I plead guilty. I was not working under the Holy Spirit. When you have removed yourself from the Mother Church, from which comes the light, how can you be disseminate this light yourself?”
His penitent reflections aside, Metropolitan Paisios also said he is ready to work as a mediator so that all old calendarists can finally rejoin the Church. ”I want them to taste and enjoy the deep satisfaction of being in the genuine mystery of the Church,” he said.
Asked specifically if he would do so on behalf of Metropolitan Pavlos, Metropolitan Paisios said that he would reach out to ”any soul who needs therapy, whether it be Pavlos or Chrysostomos or Petros. This old calendarist tsunami must finally find its kymatothrafsti (wave breaker).”
The Stavropegial Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou in Astoria, and the 12 monastic communities which revolve around it, function under a charter approved by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
When the Herald pointed out that the St. Irene Chrysovalantou community is significantly solvent financially, his response was, ”That is for the Church to evaluate,” adding that the Patriarchate does not interfere with the Monastery?s direction. ”The Patriarchate does not lower itself, nor does it commit acts beneath its dignity. Of course, we make the necessary spiritual and financial declarations.”
Metropolitan Paisios said that Metropolitan Joachim (then of Chalcedon) played an important part in his and Bishop Vikentios? rejoining of the Mother Church, and that today, when they hear Joachim?s name, they are both brought to tears.
”Yes, he was our nymfagogos (the one who presented the newly-ordained bishops to the Holy of Holies), along with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,” he said.
The Chrysovalantou Monastery’s relations with the Archdiocese and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America ”couldn’t be characterized as anything but benevolent. We can not disagree because we both belong to the same Church. The Mother Church orders us to maintain good relations with all Her shepherds,” he said, adding that the Patriarchate is a center for Hellenism in the Orthodox Christian world.
What the Ecumenical Patriarchate has that makes it our true Mother Church is the perpetuation of our Hellenism; the preservation of our Greek language and its dissemination to succeeding generations,” Metropolitan Paisios concluded.