The following is a translation of an article entitled ΤΑ ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΑ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥΓΕΝΝΑ from the first edition of ΤΑ ΠΑΤΡΙΑ.
The venerable old man, Mr. Andreas Vaporidis who is over 80 years old, the founder and first president of what was called at that time the Orthodox Association tells how the first Old Calendarists celebrated the Nativity of Christ in 1924, the first year of the Calendar Schism.
During the first year of the Calendar Schism, we went through difficult days. The difficulties for all of us who with God’s aid remained faithful to the Patristic Orthodox Calendar were the following. a) The strict measures which the Revolutionary Government at that time had taken against us b) The vigilant and systematic surveillance by the institutions of Metropolitan Chrysostomos Papadopoulos of Athens. For every one of our ecclesiastical gatherings in Chapels outside Athens, the Police Department was informed and directed with the standard mandate to disperse us. c) The almost complete lack of like-minded Orthodox Priests, as well as a permanent Church in which we could carry out our religious duties.
Everywhere and at all times the threat of the schismatic Metropolitan Chrysostomos Papadopoulos loomed with the help of the Government’s weapons, and he threatened all with the slavery of the Calendar Schism.
Since March 10, 1924, which “automatically” became March 23rd with the addition of 13 days, the first Christian brethren resisted the Calendar Innovation, and founded an organization called the Orthodox Association. Later, in 1926, it was succeeded by the Sacred Community of Genuine Orthodox Christians.
With all its paltry means, the administration of the newly-founded Orthodox Association reacted against the Calendar Innovation, with the enlightenment of the Greeks, with written protests, and with gatherings in closed spaces where enlightening homilies took place.
These things took place often, especially in the Merchants’ Hall beside the Metropolis Square. There were many speakers among whom were many noteworthy persons of the intellectual community such as the historian and professor at Athens University P. Karolidis, the Great Charophylax of the Great Church of Christ (the Ecumenical Patriarchate) Emmanuel Gideon who in his speeches always stressed characteristically that “they’ve turned us into Franks!”, Constantine Psachos, Professor of Byzantine Music at the Conservatoire of Athens, and others.
As I mentioned above, we mostly suffered from a lack of Priests because, as is known, due to the strict measures which the Metropolis of Athens and the Revolutionary Government imposed, no priest dared, not only to stand up to the Schism but even to speak.
In spite of all this, however, in August 1924 two priests, the ever-memorable Fr. Parthenios of Iviron, and Fr. John Floros dared to utter the great and decisive “No!” to the Metropolitan as well as to the Schism, and they became spiritual leaders of the members of the Orthodox Association.
With these Priests, we carried out our religious duties on Sundays and Feast Days in the various Chapels around Athens.
And thus we reached the Eve of the Great Feast of Christ’s Nativity. The faithful who followed the Patristic Calendar increased, because “the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47) According to our more conservative calculations the number of faithful in Athens and Piraeus alone reached over 5,000 souls.
This whole multitude of faithful needed to celebrate the Great Feast of Christ’s Nativity and to partake of the Immaculate Mysteries.
For this reason, the Administrative Council of the Orthodox Association convened every evening, sometimes at my factory on Vlachavas Street, and sometimes at the house of the ever-memorable Mr. Sideris.
It was suggested by enthusiastic zealots that we take over the Metropolitan Cathedral or the Church of Christ’s Nativity in Psyrris. After many meetings and discussions, the following prudent suggestion prevailed and was decided upon: The first Orthodox Nativity of 1924 would be celebrated in the Chapel of St. Therapon in Goudi outside of Athens.
The faithful of the Patristic Traditions were informed in a timely fashion concerning the Chapel in which Christ’s Nativity would be celebrated and on the night of Christ’s Nativity more than 3,000 faithful overfilled the Church as well as the space around it, even lighting fires in order to keep warm.
After midnight while the Service of Matins was being chanted and Fr. Parthenios was performing the Holy Oblation, gendarme forces, and soldiers arrived headed by the Military Garrison of Athens, and they encircled the church-goers.
The mandate they had was explicit: to arrest the priest and disperse the crowd of church-goers, even violently if necessary. The Garrison Commander said as well, perhaps in order to frighten them, that they would not hesitate to use their weapons.
None of the church-goers moved, the chanters remained indifferent to the threats and continued to chant, while the Priest with the Holy Lance continued during the Service of the Holy Oblation to commemorate “on behalf of the living and the reposed.”
In the face of this decisive refusal, the Garrison Commander of Athens left, having installed an armed guard within the Church as well as without.
After about one hour a new mandate came obviously from the Metropolitan, which he announced to the Priest and the chanters:
– “If you celebrate the Feast of the St. John the Baptist (whose Feast it was on January 7th with the New Calendar) we will permit you to liturgize! However, in case you insist on celebrating Christ’s Nativity, we will command you to be dispersed by force.”
– “We have the Feast of Christ’s Nativity today just as Jerusalem does. The Franks celebrate the St. John the Baptist today!” voices were heard to say from the crowd.
Then the Garrison Commander spoke to the Priest and threatened to arrest him.
“Only by dragging me fully vested holding the Holy Lance in my hand will you take me out of the Holy Altar.” answered the priest.
Meanwhile, the crowd of church-goers moved forward to protect the Priest and the Holy Gifts which the Priest had covered in the meantime.
Seeing this the Garrison Commander, fearing that blood might be spilled, retreated and left us to celebrate the Orthodox Nativity that first year of the Schism.
With unrestrained compunction, the entire crowd of celebrating church-goers quietly partook of the Immaculate Mysteries at the end of the Divine Liturgy.
Two hours before sunrise, and having wished one another “Next year may we be free,” we all returned to our homes as other “Shepherds of Bethlehem… glorifying and praising God for all the things that we had heard and seen.” (Luke 2:19)