Rev. Fr. George Kevorkian
The historical origin of April Fool’s day actually deals with a very serious subject – the introduction of a new calendar. Ancient cultures as varied as the Romans and the Hindus had celebrated New Year’s Day on April 1, which is closely related to the start of Spring. In medieval times, much of Europe celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation. In 1582, Pope Gregory ordered a new calendar, which has come to be known as the Gregorian Calendar to replace the older Julian Calendar. This new calendar called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated on January 1, instead of April 1. Many countries, however, resisted the change for centuries. Those who had accepted the change began to refer to the resisters as “fools” and would send them on fools errands, or try to trick them. In 1752, Great Britain finally adopted the Gregorian Calendar, but retained April 1 as a day for trickery.
As Orthodox Christians we are called to become fools to the things of this world, as a means of drawing closer to the things of God. We read in the teachings of St. Paul:
“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19)
There is much “wisdom” in this world that we would be very wise to ignore. It may appear to be true, and even seductive, but this earthly wisdom denies God. Our only measure of true wisdom must be found in Christ, and we can only truly approach Him to the extent that we abandon the wisdom of this world that is in opposition to Him. It is in this sense that St. Paul calls us to become fools to this world, so that we may become wise to the things of God.
The Orthodox Church commemorates many Saints who took up the ascetic struggle of being “fools-for-Christ”. Two of the notable Saints are Andrew, Fool-for Christ-sake, and Basil, Fool-for-Christ-sake of Moscow. Both of these wonderful people led their lives appearing to be “insane” to the world as a means of putting aside the things of this world for the sake of drawing nearer to Christ. They wandered the streets of their cities hungry and half-naked so that they appeared to the world as outcasts. But in their “insanity” to this world, they became a consolation to others, and were given the gifts of prophecy and discernment.
It is especially relevant that this secular day of “April Fools” comes during the Orthodox Great Fast. In this Holy Season, we are called to turn away from the many distractions of the world, and to turn toward God. It is in this turning away from the distractions of the world that we indeed are called to become fools.
Taken from the Antiochian Orthodox webpage.