Geronda Ephraim has a lot of experience with the Old Calendar issue. He was born a few years after the Church of Greece changed the calendar. His birthplace, Volos, would prove to be a stronghold for those sympathetic with the Julian calendar over the Gregorian in ecclesiastical use. His baptism would’ve occurred before the1937 schism, when the Old Calendarist faction were still members of the Church of Greece.
After the 1935 schism, Geronda Ephraim’s family joined the old calendar schismatic faction that broke off from the church.
Elder Joseph the Hesychast, who arrived on Mount Athos before the calendar change, also went with the schismatic faction that broke off from the church. After 1937, when Bishop Matthew created his own schism from the Old Calendarist schism, the schismatic factions were divided into two—The Matthewites and the Florinites.
Elder Joseph knew Bishop Matthew personally, as he was originally an ascetic on Mount Athos. Elder Joseph left the church and joined the schismatic Matthewite faction.1
Elder Joseph was very active with the old calendar schismatics. He founded a convent of nuns, made up mostly of refugees, in Macedonia. He stayed over a month at the newly-founded Convent of St. Irene Chrysovolantou in Athens and established their typicon according to the Athonite usages for coenobia. The convent, which is now world-renowned, was founded by Mother Meletia at the beginning of the thirties outside of Athens. Father Joseph, therefore, showed great zeal in admonishing the faithful, by word and deed, to “stand fast and keep the traditions” of the Church, even as we have received them, withstanding every and all innovation. During this period, prior to the Second World War, the best fathers of the Holy Mountain were zealots. Many illustrious fathers left the monasteries because of the commemoration and joined the zealots. 2
During the 1930s, Elder Joseph was actively helping Gerondissa Eupraxia. She and some of her spiritual sisters were building a monastery. Unfortunately there was a rivalry between them, quarrels, etc. Every now and again, Elder Joseph would come down from Mount Athos and help. These trips upset and wounded Elder Arsenios the Cave-Dweller because he didn’t like leaving the Holy Mountain; however, they had an obedience to stick together and there was no blessing to be separated for more than a 24 hour period.
The building of the monastery occurred after Elder Joseph’s 8 year temptation period with the demon of lust; when he was completely passionless, like a child.The parish priests, however, accused the Elder, especially about ethical issues, and made trial of him, in which the Elder was not presented. In the meantime, the laypeople out of simplicity made excesses; e.g. when they saw him they said “Christos, Christos!” inasmuch as he had blue-gray eyes and a blond goatee, etc.3
In 1938, when the Elder realized there was no benefit, he did not return to the Monastery. The sisters, one because the Elder didn’t come, another because the parish priests hunted her, were dissolved. But all of them firmly held the Monastic tradition. Many of them became sanctified. Two went to the Monastery of Panagia Pefkovounogiatrissis in Keratea (Euphrosyne, Fevronia), another was KlaioMaria of Perissa. The Abbess Efpraxia went to Thessaloniki and lived very poorly in a closet with dirt on the floor (near the Prophet Elijah), along with her mother, in the court of her brother’s house. When he saw that she was strong in the prayer , Geronda Joseph, instructed her to close herself in the closet and gave her a hesychast typikon to be occupied only on the prayer, not to exit, and to have no friends. She obeyed.
At the end of the 40s, Bishop Matthew, seeing that his end was drawing nigh and that no other bishop was with him, proceeded against the canons and ordained numerous bishops by himself, which then declared themselves a Synod and elected him Archbishop. This was the second blow to the zealots of Athos. Many at the time abandoned Bishop Matthew, observing that they could not be consistent in condemning the calendar change as uncanonical and then accept the uncanonical ordinations of bishops by one bishop.
In 1945, Elder Joseph and Elder Ephraim of Katounakia joined the Florinites which was still a schismatic faction outside the church.5
When Geronda Ephraim of Arizona joined Elder Joseph’s synodia in 1947, they were still members of schismatic old calendarist factions. Some of the letters in Monastic Wisdom, were written to nuns in schismatic Old Calendarist convents. There are also letters preserved which are not found in Monastic Wisdom.6
Elder Joseph’s synodia left the zealots and returned to the Orthodox Church sometime in the 50’s after both Elder Joseph and Elder Ephraim of Katounakia received visions that the living church was in Constantinople. Thus, Elder Ephraim of Arizona’s orthodox upbringing and his initial years of monasticism were rooted in old calendarist zealotry. Later, after the synodia of Elder Joseph joined the Orthodox Church, he also had the experience of the New Calendar side of things.7
In the 1950’s, Elder Joseph’s synodia had no priests, and two members—Fathers Haralampos and Ephraim—were ordained by Bishop Ierotheos, who was living as a hermit in the Skete of Saint Anne’s and was thus with the traditional Church Calendar, but a commemorator nevertheless. Although Father Joseph left the zealots, yet he never celebrated any feasts with the Papal Calendar. This was not difficult, for from 1939 he never left the Holy Mountain, nor did he allow any one of his synodia to go outside the Holy Mountain.
It is said in the biography of Elder Ephraim of Katounakia: “When, at the suggestion of Elder Joseph, they left the zealots and returned to communion with the rest of the Athonite fathers, they truly came to know the power of Grace in the Mysteries they celebrated…For the entire time he was with the zealots, he [Fr. Ephraim of Katounakia] saw something like a veil in front of him, hindering him from seeing this Divine Grace distinctly. The veil was lifted when he returned to the living church.”8
Elder Joseph was with the Old Calendarist zealots for 15+ years. Elder Ephraim of Katounakia had a veil hindering him from seeing divine grace distinctly for this 15 year period. One wonders if Elder Ephraim of Arizona has personal stories about the differences he perceived in Grace and spiritual experiences in Pappou’s synodeia (i.e comparisons of the initial years outside of the church and the later years after they joined the church).
There is not any information if they were properly received back into the church or if they just started commemorating the Patriarch again. The old/new calendar issue has been quite a grey area for the church. As the Church generally does not (or cannot) recognize any sacraments, including Baptism, administered in a schism, there have been varying ways that old calendarists have been received into the Orthodox Church. I.e. Bishops Paisios and Vikentios were reordained when they joined communion with the official church.9
Fr. Epifanios Theodoropoulos, the number one canonologist in Greece when he was alive, made some very strong ecclesiastical positions against the calendar schismatics, going one step further to call them heretics and blasphemers of the Holy Spirit since they denied the existence of grace in the New Calendar Church.10 Metropolitan Athansios of Lemesou, Elder Cleopa of Romania, as well as many of the Athonite Fathers hold the same views: “The Old Calendarists are outside the church, their sacraments are invalid, and they blaspheme the Holy Spirit by denying the existence of grace in the New Calendar Church.”
Archimandrite Panteleimon Metropoulos and Elder Ephraim of Arizona
Archimandrite Panteleimon (Metropoulos) has always claimed to have been a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. He also says Elder Joseph gave him a blessing to come to America to build a monastery. Some of Geronda Ephraim’s monks dispute this claim saying Elder Joseph told him, “No!” Apparently, he foresaw the scandals that Fr. Panteleimon would cause, as well as how that would impact Geronda Ephraim later. It is said that some of the letters in Monastic Wisdom are addressed to Fr. Panteleimon.
So, Fr. Panteleimon came to America in the 60s under the New Calendar Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (then headed by Archbishop Iakovos). In the 1960’s, in protest of the excessive ecumenical activities of Patriarch Athenagoras I (Spyrou) of Constantinople and Archbishop Iakovos (Coucouzis) of America, he joined ROCOR.
Following the suspension of the abbot and founder of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Archimandrite Panteleimon (Metropoulos), by the ROCOR in December, 1986, for multiple accusations of sexual immorality, the monastery and its supporting communities left the ROCOR and following a brief period under two independent Old Calendarist bishops in Greece, were received by the Old Calendarist Synod of Archbishop Auxentios of Athens. HOCNA is not in communion with any mainstream Orthodox church.11
Anyways, Geronda Ephraim went to visit Fr. Panteleimon at some point after all this fiasco, and talks about this meeting on in a homily On the Old Calendarists:
“…Father Panteleimon who is in Boston, America; he is like my brother… When I asked him then “Father, are you with the Old Calendarists?” He told me “No, neither with the old calendarists nor the New Calendarists”. Anyway, he has his own line firm and says that there is no salvation, except only on his own side, and he neither communes and nor confesses to people of the new calendar. This, of course, happened before me and no one can tell me that I am wrong. When I went to Boston and went to his monastery, it happened in front of me and I know these things. Of course, we are spiritual brothers and we have love etc. But we utterly disagree in these respects. My Elder told him, amongst other things, that, as you believe him to be a saint and you have his holy relics and you do miracles with the relics of the Elder, but our Elder has died in the Church. We were ordained by the Bishop, who was in the Church and even then, when we were ordained, we commemorated the Ecumenical Patriarch—then it was Athengoras—and he was sanctified in the Church. How now can we say that this Church, which sanctified the Elder, is heretical? It is awesome!”12
1. Two Holy Fathers on the Calendar Issue: Elder Ephraim of Katounakia and Elder Joseph the Hesychast http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/02/two-holy-fathers-on-calendar-issue.html
Bishop Matthew joined the early Greek Old-Calendarists as an archimandrite, was consecrated a vicar-bishop by the three original leaders of the Old-Calendarists (Metropolitan’s Chrysostom, Chrysostom, and Germanos) in 1935, but then broke away in schism from them in 1937 when he failed to persuade them to treat the New-Calendarist hierarchy of that time was outside the Church and graceless on account of the new-menaion innovation. He has been “glorified” as a saint in the GOC as “Saint Matthew the New” and is considered a “confessor” and “miracle-worker.” They claim he “streams myrrh” to this day…
2. Letter Regarding the Guidance of the Elder Joseph regarding the Calendar Issue http://nektarios.home.comcast.net/~nektarios/1511.html
3. Some traditions state that Jesus Christ had blond hair and blue eyes.
4. Nun Efpraxia, Subordinate of Elder Joseph the Hesychast http://www.vatopedi.gr/2012/11/%CE%BC%CE%BF%CE%BD%CE%B1%CF%87%CE%AE-%CE%B5%CF%85%CF%80%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%BE%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CF%85%CF%80%CE%BF%CF%84%CE%B1%CE%BA%CF%84%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%AE-%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%85-%CE%B3%CE%AD%CF%81%CE%BF%CE%BD/
5. A July 2, 1945 Letter of St. Joseph the Hesychast explaining why he returned to the Florinites: http://www.hsir.org/Theology_en/E3e4024EipeGeronAK323.pdf
6. 1947 Letter to a nun in the Old Calendarist Convent in Attika http://www.hsir.org/Theology_en/E3e4005AK309.pdf
7. My Elder Joseph the Hesychast, pp. 164-165- http://classicalchristianity.com/2014/08/21/on-matthewite-ecclesiology/ [The comments in this link effectively debunk Matthewite Ecclesiology, revealing its errors].
8. Two Holy Fathers on the Calendar Issue Elder Ephraim of Katounakia and Elder Joseph http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/02/two-holy-fathers-on-calendar-issue.html
For more information about how schismatics are received back into the Orthodox Church, see Canon 1 of St. Basil the Great (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3202188.htm), Fr. George Metallinos’ I Confess One Baptism (http://www.oodegr.co/english/biblia/baptisma1/perieh.htm), and St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite’s The Rudder (https://web.archive.org/web/20131105100901/http://orthodoxbahamas.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/THE_RUDDER_Copyright__Ralph_J._Masterjohn_2006.pdf )
10. Ecumenism and Schismatic Old Calendarism http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/02/ecumenism-and-schismatic-old.html
12. Geronda Ephraim of Arizona, Concerning the Old and New Calendar: