Towards a World Calendar

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.

Ephesians 4, 4

For the peace of the whole world, the good estate of the holy Churches of God and the union of all people, let us pray to the Lord.

From the Great Litany of the Orthodox Liturgies

I pray Thee, O Merciful Lord, for all the peoples of the Earth that they may come to know Thee by Thy Holy Spirit.

St Silvanus the Athonite (+ 1938)

Introduction: Spiritual Unity

For Orthodox Christians the Unity of the Church, of the Body of Christ, is in the Holy Spirit. Any other kind of unity is inevitably a false and illusory unity, a unity imposed by the world and its institutions of power politics and money which can turn once faithful members of the Church into faithless puppets of the world. Just as disunity, so false unity is always the fruit of a lack of spirituality, the breaking of worldly values into Church life. Only the Holy Spirit can truly bind us together with our Creator and therefore with one another. Only the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from the Father (John 15, 26) is sent to us by the Son to console us as the Spirit of Truth. Only the Holy Spirit can overcome the ethnic, political and economic rivalries which so often use religion as a mask for their ancestral and territorial hatreds. The Unity given by the Holy Spirit is therefore that between different historical periods, territories and their peoples. It is the four-dimensional Unity which transcends Time and Space into Eternity and Infinity. East and West meet, but only in the Holy Spirit: 'Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all' (Colossians 3, 11). The Unity given by the Holy Spirit, Spiritual Unity, is best seen among those who bear the Spirit, those who have acquired the Holy Spirit, that is to say, the Saints of God. These God-Bearers are bearers of Church Culture, the Culture of the Spirit, real, living Culture. This Culture of the Spirit is the Culture of the Incarnation and therefore its finest embodiment is the Mother of God, the ultimate Incarnator, the ultimate Bearer of God, the Bearer of Christ the Word of God. For it is to Him that all veneration of the Saints is ultimately directed. Church Culture is opposed to secular culture, the culture of ideas and concepts, the culture of disincarnation.

History knows of two main types of Saint, for there are two principal ways of acquiring the Holy Spirit. On the one hand there are Confessors, those who confess the Faith of the Church, the Faith of the Body of Christ. Often, but not always, these are ascetics, who over a lifetime acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit through prayer, fasting and many other sacrifices, and in that way are 'made holy' (the meaning of the word 'sacrifice'). Other Saints are those who are 'made holy' or 'sacrificed' by one single but very great act, martyrdom. Through one supreme sacrifice these martyrs redeem and transfigure all their faults, whether small or great, which they have previously accumulated. We can take as examples the fourth-century St Patermuthius of the Egyptian Desert, a former robber. Or in the twentieth century St Nicholas, the last Russian Tsar, a man who smoked. Just as St Patermuthius did not become a Saint because he was a robber, so St Nicholas did not become a Saint because he was a Tsar or smoked. Both became Saints because they were prepared to accept martyrdom, to die for their Faith. It was on account of their final and ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom that they became Spirit-Bearers, Saints. 'Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation' (Hebrews 13, 7).

At the present time no World or Universal Calendar of all the Saints exists. Only local calendars including the Saints of some countries exist. Thus the Roman Catholic calendar in use in Italy is not exactly that of Roman Catholics in England, which is quite different from that of the Orthodox Church in Russia, which is also different from that of the Orthodox Church in Greece. As modern technology, for better or worse, draws humanity ever closer, it seems to us that the time is now coming to establish a Universal Calendar, a World Calendar, a Calendar of all the Saints who have been clearly revealed by God to men and so remembered by them. Only the example of their Spiritual Unity could offset the negative consequences inherent in the globalist, one-worldist processes of secular political and economic unity. These tens of thousands of names known to us would of course be only a fraction of that total number of Saints who worship at the Throne of the Holy Trinity, most of whom are still unknown to us. But it appears to us that the intercessions of all the Saints yet revealed to us with the All-Merciful Lord might yet put back the inevitable end of the world as it comes ever closer.

Criteria of Sainthood

There is then a growing awareness of the need for a World Calendar of all the Saints whose confessors' holiness or martyrs' sacrifice are clear through their Lives, Lives which in many cases have yet to be written or rewritten. What are the criteria for the inclusion of Saints in a Universal Calendar?

It is a fact that over the centuries, both in East and West, the names of many Saints have, either deliberately for political reasons or else through ignorance, been omitted from many church calendars. Examples include the great fourteenth-century Church Father St Gregory Palamas, 'the theologian of grace', who is deliberately omitted from Roman Catholic calendars. Or on the other hand the Russian Orthodox St Nicholas and Alexandra and their children (+ 1918) and all the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia whose names may be found in some Orthodox and Roman Catholic calendars but, ironically, are still deliberately omitted for political reasons in those of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchal Church and the Church of Constantinople. Similarly there are some who out of ethnic hatred or bigotry refuse to venerate Saints of certain races. Or again there are Saints such as St Margaret or St Catherine, who since the 1960's have been deliberately omitted from Roman Catholic calendars since their Lives were often written in a fabulous style. However, just because a Saint's Life is badly written, it does not mean to say, as Roman Catholic authorities concluded, that the Saint never existed. There are true Saints but with false Lives, their true Lives as yet unwritten.

Similarly, and also for political reasons, the names of many false 'Saints' have crept into calendars. These are men and women who are not confessors of the Faith of the Holy Spirit, not martyrs for the Faith of the Holy Spirit. They are, whatever their sufferings, not Spirit-Bearers in the true sense of the word. Who exactly are these false 'saints' who do not confess the Faith of the Holy Spirit, but who are included in calendars for political reasons?

a) Opposers of the Spirit - 'Pneumatomachs' and 'Pneumatoclasts'

Firstly, there are those who, not by ignorance or misunderstanding, but openly and consciously, denied the Holy Spirit, deforming the Nicene Creed. They are those who rejected the age-old Gospel teaching on the Holy Spirit, how He comes to us from God the Father, bringing to us the Divine Energies of the Holy Trinity. Such 'Spirit-Breakers', 'pneumatomachs' or 'pneumatoclasts', are not Bearers of Spirituality, 'Pneumatophors', but bearers of a false spirituality of psychic gifts. They began to be commonplace in some countries from the eleventh century, but sometimes even earlier and sometimes much later. They include such persons as 'Blessed' Charlemagne (+ 814), the so-called Emperor Charles the Great. In fact this lover of power was a mass murderer and fomenter of great strife between the newly-converted minority Christians in semi-pagan North-Western Europe and the ancient majority Churches of Southern and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Similarly, one of his supporters is called 'St' Paulinus (+ 802). Another later and very aggressive follower in the ninth century was 'St' Nicholas I, Pope of Rome (+ 867). In the Middle Ages such 'pneumatomachs' as the philosophers 'St' Anselm of Canterbury (V 1109) and 'St' Thomas Aquinas (+ 1274) both openly and shamelessly wrote against the teachings of the Church on the Holy Spirit and the Holy Trinity.

b) Political Victims

Secondly, there are those who were killed for their political views and their meddling in the secular affairs of the State or those who intolerantly murdered or tortured others and were then killed in revenge. These include Stanislas of Poland (+ 1079), Thomas Becket (+ 1170), inquisitors such as Peter Arnaud (+ 1242), Stephen of Narbonne (+ 1242), Paganus of Lecco (+ 1274), the Servite friars killed in revenge by Bohemian Hussites (+ 420), the inquisitor Aimo Taparelli (+ 1495), or Josaphat of Polotsk (+ 1623) and Andrew Bobola (+ 1657) the notorious mass-murderers of Orthodox. Revenge killings cannot be justified, but neither can the canonisation of murderers and torturers and their aggressive intentions. Here are very clear-cut cases for 'decanonization'. However, it should be added that there are also other political victims who were not persecutors and often died atrocious deaths for their mistaken beliefs. With these we can have more sympathy, though not forgetting that they were generally killed because their co-religionists, but not they themselves, were persecutors, murderers and torturers. They include political victims of the Reformation such as the Roman Catholic martyrs of England and Wales and those of Dokkum in Holland, killed in revenge for the barbaric murders committed by their co-religionists mainly in the sixteenth century.

c) Psychics

Usually termed 'mystics', these forerunners of the 'charismatics' are those who replaced the sobriety of the authentic confession of the Holy Spirit with often hysterical emotionalism, hypnotic gifts and charisma and psychic phenomena, such as levitation, bodily warmth or stigmata, which were (and often still are) seen by the naive as spiritual phenomena. Such phenomena are not in reality spiritual but psychic, the result of the development of innate human abilities, regardless of spirituality, which can be developed by anyone through knowledge of the appropriate techniques and difficult psychic exercises. This is proved by the existence of such 'mystics' among non-Christians such as Sufis, Hindus and Buddhists. Their so-called 'mysticism' is in the fact the pseudo-spirituality of humanism. Such psychics include personalities like Hildegard of Bingen (+ 1179), Francis of Assisi (+ 1226), Catherine of Sienna (+ 1380), Joan of Arc (+ 1431), Teresa of Avila (+ 1582), John of the Cross (+ 1591), to name but a few. In the Orthodox Church it is quite possible to find such 'charismatics' but they have so far never been canonized - on the contrary, they have usually been seen for what they are. It should in mitigation be added that only very few of these 'mystics' were consciously frauds or charlatans. Most were sincere people in a state of self-delusion, that state known to the Church Fathers by the Greek word 'plani' and the Latin word 'illusio', translated into Slavonic as 'prelest'. In other words, they did not set out to hoodwink others, they fooled themselves first, confusing the Holy Spirit with their own human spirits, muddling spiritual powers with human powers. This was the direct result of their isolation, usually inherited, from the authentic and living confession of the Faith of the Holy Spirit as expressed in the Nicene Creed.

d) Beatification and Late Canonisation

The concept of a legal process including a first stage of 'semi-sanctity' through a centrally-organized beatification is one simply unknown to the Church. The acquiring of the Holy Spirit by a man or woman is a process which will be recognized by spontaneous, popular and above all lasting veneration, which may begin even during the lifetime of the person. This will, on local verification of its authenticity, be recognized by the Church either locally and perhaps eventually universally. This recognition is called 'canonization', meaning the setting of a model or pattern, a 'canon', for the faithful to imitate. Thus a canonization centuries after a Saint's Life is very rare, generally occurring only in the case of martyrs whose lost relics or Lives have been rediscovered. In other cases later canonizations seem to be politically motivated. The term 'Blessed' is used only for Saints whose holiness is clear, despite the fact that they made daring and erroneous statements during their lifetime which they were prepared to retract if, as later they were, found by the Church to be incorrect. Instances include Blessed Augustine of Hippo and Blessed Jerome of Stridon. The term is not used for some spiritually impossible state of 'semi-sanctity'.

e) Mythical Lives

Especially during the Western Middle Ages it became the custom to entirely invent Lives of Saints, compiling fictitious romances or weaving fables, and calling them 'Lives'. In some cases this went a stage further, with not only the invention of 'Lives' but also with the invention of 'Saints', a good example being that of 'St Wilgefortis', a totally non-existent character, as is now admitted. Some 'Lives' of some real Saints were included in one mediæval anthology known as 'The Golden Legend'. The result of such legends was that the authentic Lives of some real Saints were lost to such an extent that some no longer even believe in the reality of the Saint, real Saints have been discredited by false Lives. Unfortunately, many fail to understand that fiction written about a true person does not mean that the person did not exist. Thus most of the Lives of Irish Saints are quite untrustworthy, but this does not mean that the Saints in question did not exist, all it means is that very little of spiritual edification can be said about the Saint. All we can hope for in such cases is that through communicating with the Saint in prayer we may be able to uncover further particulars. However, it is also true that the narrow-mindedness of modern times often dismisses Saints whose Lives it fails to understand. For example the story of St George and the Dragon has led many to dismiss as fictitious not only the Dragon but also the Saint. They fail to understand that St George is a real Saint and that the Dragon is simply a symbolic image of Evil.

f) The Righteous

Included in many Western calendars are those who are not Saints, but simply righteous and kind-hearted Christians, little different from many other kindly but uncanonized Christians in all parts of the Christian world. However praiseworthy and even edifying the lives of such sincere individuals may be, they cannot be considered to be Saints. Holiness is more than righteousness and cannot be acquired without the confession of the Holy Spirit, the source of all holiness. Several Protestants as well as Roman Catholics might well fall into this category, from nineteenth-century England for instance the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, the hospital-founder Florence Nightingale, the founder of orphanages Dr Barnardo and many other social reformers, founders of charities and doers of good works. Among righteous Roman Catholics we might consider the twelfth-century English hermits Godric of Finchale and Wulfric of Haselbury, the ill-treated Italian wife Margaret the Barefoot, the Swiss Nicolas von Flüe, the Tyrolese maid Notburga, all of the Middle Ages, or the seventeenth-century French social worker, the most charitable Vincent de Paul.

g) Victims of Evil

Finally there are those who may come close to holiness, on account of being killed for innocently-held Christian beliefs. They cannot be considered to be Saints because they were not actually martyrs i.e. witnesses (the meaning of the word 'martyr') for the Truth, inasmuch as their confession of the Faith of the Holy Spirit was in some way deficient. However it would seem to the present author that doubt may linger about the possible holiness of such victims, especially in the case of small children. It may indeed be that some of them can be considered to have been baptized in their blood. However the mystery of possible holiness must be left in the hands of the only true Knower of human hearts Who will judge us all: we feel unable to speak of this any further. Such cases include the mainly native Roman Catholics so cruelly slain in Japan, especially at Nagasaki, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with children among them, monastics in revolutionary France in the eighteenth century, those in Korea, Vietnam, China and Uganda in the nineteenth century, those in revolutionary Spain in the twentieth century, as well as murder-victims such as the innocent Italian child Maria Goretti in 1902.

Conclusion: The Shape of a Universal Calendar

A future Universal Christian Calendar should contain two lists of the authentic Saints, the main one in order of the calendar date of the Church Year, the second in alphabetical order. A calendar list would include the names of Saints in their best-known forms as well as other forms, their titles, their dates and the past and present names of the places and countries where they became Saints. As regards dates of commemoration, we feel that the most ancient Western dates should be used for Western Saints, Eastern dates for Eastern Saints, as being the most accurate and traditional. A second alphabetical list with names, titles and dates would be for reference. From such a list eventually the Lives of all the Saints of such a Universal Calendar could be compiled.

We think such a task neither easy nor swiftly completed. Indeed it is the work of a lifetime. But there is no reason why it cannot be done.

More details of the book "The Lighted Way" and where to buy it, can be found on The English Orthodox Trust page of this site.

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