Today marks the 1300th anniversary of the consecration of Winfried as missionary bishop to the Frysians. In AD 722, he received a new name from the bishop of Rome on this occasion: Bonifatius, after his namesake from Tarsus who was martyred under Diocletian. This new name Boniface was bestowed on him by Gregory II, one of the good Gregorys. Eleven down the line, Gregory XXIII fulfilled a prophecy in the book of Daniel about the antichrist…
Yes, it can be worse than Pope Francis. Many Catholics are increasingly concerned about the present state of the papacy. Biblical doctrine and careful Scripture exposition are clearly not among the priorities of Pope Francis. To encourage my readership in these dark days, I share some reflections on the subject of time and calendar.
The calendar which is presently in general use, is called Gregorian. With its start of the new year in January it is a relatively new way of looking at the times. Before this we had the Julian calendar, which was developed under Julius Caesar and presently runs 13 days behind the solar year. It was only well after the Middle-Ages and the Reformation that Pope Gregory XIII promulgated the calendar that we use today, in October 1582. He broke with the general practice in the Western Church to observe the beginning of the new year in March and commanded that from 1583 the new year, aptly called circumcision-style, should start on the first of January instead.
Most Christians today accept this without thinking even once, let alone twice. Even staunch Calvinist Reformed churches have special services on New Year’s Eve, also when this is not on a Sunday or Saturday. For earlier generations of believers on either side of the ecclesiastical divide this would have seemed unbelievable. The Protestant side would have regarded this as a compromise with the embodiment of anti-Christ himself. Why? Read on and find out.
Praise be to God?…
Gregory XIII was the Pope of the counter-reformation. When he took up his cathedra in St John Lateran in AD1572, Julian time, Gregory promised to faithfully carry out the decisions of the council of Trent. This meant church reform as well as fighting Protestantism. The notorious index of forbidden books dates from his papacy.
Catholics who look to Trent and Pope Gregory as the standard for Catholicity should think twice. You may come to appreciate Pope Francis yet, if you compare his actions with those of Gregory. Only a few months into his papacy an extremely treacherous genocide on Huguenots took place in Paris on St Bartholomew’s day, since known as the Blood Wedding. Modern estimates range from at the very least ten to seventy thousand people massacred. If the truth is found somewhere in the middle this means 35.000 Christians caught unawares and butchered for their faith.
Gregory’s response? Lets sing the Te Deum. A real nice guy. This led to Henry Chadwick’s well known observation that throughout Europe, this “printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion.” If this was Christianity, it was certainly quite different in practice than that of the Apostles. Despite some of the good work done at Trent, this immediately turned it nil and void as far as winning people over was concerned. Gregory’s wasn’t a religion that was interested in speaking the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:16) A fascinating example of someone who got the message loud and clear was the Count of Bentheim. He had been on his way to Paris with his wife when news of the massacre reached them. He immediately turned back and adopted Calvinism as state religion for the county of Bentheim. No doubt he was guided by the words of our Lord: “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Torture good for the soul…
These fruits had been in doubt for some time already. For instance, a few centuries earlier Pope Innocent IV (1243 to 1254) had sanctioned the use of torture (!!!) on his flock as a legitimate means of church discipline to extract confessions and save people’s souls… For their own good, of course. He had a nice pastoral thing going.
Fortunately, I haven’t yet met any traditional Catholic in the Latin Mass community that would seriously consider this any longer. If you feel so inclined nonetheless, please consider to get proper help before we end up with another Bavaria or Croatia. History has shown what happens when people are brought up to consider this approach to their fellowmen quite normal. If the Adolph Hitler word does not ring a bell, than the name of Ante Pavelić should. The Ustaše was a Catholic party in Croatia during the War, in the best traditions of popes Boniface (not the missionary), Innocent and Gregory XIII.
The endless list of atrocities, faithfully combined with holy Mass in Roman rite on Sunday, includes murdering or expelling (in no order of preference) nearly all Orthodox priests, and plundering and burning many consecrated churches. The Ustaše also persecuted Old Catholics who considered papal infallibility in its 1870 interpretation a novelty. The British Foreign Office memo on the subject at the time was fully on the mark, describing Pius XII as “the greatest moral coward of our age.”
You might want to look on Pope Francis as a refreshing improvement. Even despite his comparative lack of Christian doctrine and Pentecostal messages on man-made global warning.
Gregory’s break with Christendom
The Apostles would have considered the actions of Gregory XIII and Innocent IV fully congruous with the Dark Side. But it gets worse. This same Pope Gregory decided to change the calender in 1582. ‘Inter gravissimas’ (extremely serious) his bull was called. Of course Gregory was too. Of course help from the Jesuit order to have it all planned. After Thursday, 4 October 1582 followed Friday 15 October. Voila, the calendar was in agreement with the sun again. This seemed if not a proper, then certainly a reasonable justification.Gregory’s Calendar (AD 1582)
An even more radical decision was to set the beginning of the new year on the first of January. This was a break with tradition, as most Catholic countries observed the ‘annunciation’-style year. This refers to the annunciation of the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-56). To grasp the implications fully, these were incarnation years. Christianity had seen it this way since the earliest beginnings. Church Father Irenaeus stated that the time of Jesus’ conception coincided with the time of the year in which his passion was to take place, around the 25th of March. In medieval England ‘Lady Day’ was the start of the new year. The incarnation was the main celebration, Christmas (nine months later) merely the inevitable consequence. That the Church celebrates Christmas in December is predominantly inspired by the annunciation, not by pagan Roman saturnalia or fairy tales about midwinter feasts.
The full version of the expression “in the year of our Lord” carries the addition ab incarnatione, “since the incarnation.” The Western Church saw the incarnation as the centre of time and the history of this world. Lives of mere mortals like you and I took place against the background of this vast panorama of world history: creation, fall, incarnation, redemption and restoration. For this reason ‘the annunciation to the blessed Virgin’ marked the new year as well as the new beginnings of God with mankind in the Incarnation of Christ.
By 1700 most of Western Europe had succumbed. Only Great Britain (England & Ireland), held out until 1752. In September of that year it also adopted the Gregorian calendar. Although not commonly known, the new year started on the first of January for business and merchant purposes only. For Church and State business the year continued to commence on “the 25th of March Old Style, being the 5th of 5 April New Style,” as the survey of Amsterdam’s trade interests (printed 1763) shows. This also explains why in England the beginning of the tax year is set on the 6th of April (25 March Old Style at the time of determination).
Gregory the anti-Christ?
Quite a few Christians regarded the Gregorian calendar an invention of the devil. Didn’t the Prophet Daniel issue a solemn warning that Antichrist could be recognized as the person who would change the calendar (Dan 7:25)? By promulgating the first of January as the start of the new year, the Pope made clear that he aligned himself with the Pagan Caesars. Like the Pope, these took the title of Pontifex Maximus (highest priest) as well as emperor. Their year started on 1 January, so Gregory in effect preferred the Pagan approach of time to the established Christian customs in East and West. As in the book of Revelation (13:16), this venture was a necessary and profitable covenant with Mammon from the start, which strengthens the anti-christian connotations of the change. Also for Protestant countries. For this reason, money hungry Protestants in Holland and Zealand could not wait to align with the Pope on this topic (December 1582, together with France).
While the annunciation style year was quite common in the Middle Ages, the Byzantine Church decided on the first of September at an early stage. In some regions the Julian calendar started on that date (Emperor Augustus was born in September), but the Church had different reason. She considered 1 September as c. 5500 BC as the date of the Creation of the world (Genesis 1). In AD 537 Christian emperor Justinian decided that all government publications and letters should be dated “Anno Mundi,” in the year of the world.
All Churches in East and West still consider the first of September as the start of the liturgical calendar, celebrating that we exist and worship because of God our Creator.
The way we use and consider time is reflective of our spirituality, or lack of it.
What is more beautiful than centering our lives on God as the Creator and Redeemer of this world? We are not our own, but were created with a purpose: Anno Mundi. We are not our own, but have been bought with a price by the Mediator between God and men: Anno Domini.