Bishops call for one date for Easter

The subject comes up periodically, and it was broached again during a meeting in Lebanon this week:

Catholic bishops in the Orient called Thursday for a common Easter holiday across the Christian churches to boost unity within the religion.

The exact date of Easter changes from year-to-year based on the movement of the moon, and is determined using different calendars by the Eastern Orthodox and Western Christian churches.

The call came at the end of a conference of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Orient which kicked off in Bkirki Monday.

Participants at the conference under Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai discussed means to implement the recommendations of a Synod convened last year that focused on the situation of Christians in the Levant.

Among the recommendations was “a serious attempt to unite the Easter Holiday for all churches and to find ways of guaranteeing the implementation of this urgent request by all Christians, especially in our Eastern countries, just as is the case in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine.”

The bishops also called on Christians to “hold onto their land and the sacred places in their historical homelands.”

“Have faith in the future,” the bishops pleaded in the wake of the current regional unrest.

Read more.

Comments

  1. Michele says:

    I like this idea. It certainly would help with Pastoral Planning to have a set date for Ash Wednesday…kind of like how we know when the First Sunday of Advent is based on Christmas Day!

  2. RomCath says:

    Hope this happens. It will be asign of unity between East and West. Which side will give?

  3. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    A Greek friend of mine said (jokingly) that there will never be a common date for Easter. Why?? Because then his family wouldn’t get all the Easter candies, goodies, meats, etc. at bargain basement reduced for quick sale prices in those usual years when “Greek Easter” comes after “Latin Easter.” Besides the holiday is “Pascha”– not a special day for a pagan godess (where the word Easter allegedly originated).

  4. Ed Peters says:

    A common date is one thing, a fixed date is another. V2 expressed openness to a fixed date, from which would likely follow a common date. Personally, I’d like to see it.

  5. Oregon Catholic says:

    How can we have a fixed date if Ash Wed. needs to fall on a Wed. and Easter needs to fall on a Sunday? I think a common calendar makes sense though.

  6. Ad Orientem says:

    I don’t want this comment to sound snarky but I hear the cry every couple of years for a common date for Easter. This call usually emanates primarily from Western Christians. All of which leaves me confused. The Church had a common date for Easter until someone (cough cough) unilaterally changed the calendar including the paschalian in the 16th century. I would suggest that if a common date for Easter is so important then the office responsible for the deviation in dates can correct the problem easily enough. Just draw up a decree returning to the traditional Church paschalian. Rome can solve this alleged problem with the speed of a fax machine.

    Maybe after we correct that enormous issue we can deal with issues of obviously lesser import, like a common Creed. (OK that last line was snarky.)

  7. David_J_White says:

    How can we have a fixed date if Ash Wed. needs to fall on a Wed. and Easter needs to fall on a Sunday?

    A possibility along these lines would be agreeing to have Easter on, e.g., the first Sunday in April. That way Easter would still fall on a Sunday, but it would easy for anyone to know when it would fall from year to year. Doing something like that is probably the closest that we can come to having a “fixed” date for Easter.

    Personally, speaking as a Latin-rite Catholic, I think there is a lot to be said for having the Western Church make the first move. After all, as Ad Orientem points out (snark or no snark), the current conflict of dates is the result of, or at least was occasioned by, the calendar change in the West in the 16th century. This would be a small but significant concession by the West towards the Orthodox. It wouldn’t involve any disputed doctrinal issues, but would be an act of Christian fraternal good will. And, FWIW, I’m all in favor of something that puts the Catholic and Orthodox churches on one side of the fence and Protestant churches on the other — unless, of course, they too decide to follow the new, unified date for Easter.

    After all, one of the reasons for the Synod of Whitby in the 7th century, as chronicled by St. Bede, is that the Celtic and Roman churches were celebrating Easter on different days, and this was felt to be a problem. An Orthodox friend of mine has family in the Middle East, and he has told me that the fact that Catholics and Orthodox celebrate Easter on different days is a source of great scandal for the Muslims there — i.e., it gives the Muslims reason to argue that Christians don’t know what they’re doing because they can’t even get their holy days straight.

  8. Romulus says:

    A fixed date would sever us from Christian tradition and from our Jewish roots, especially the Paschal moon by which we recall the Exodus and yearly know ourselves to be spiritual participants in the same deliverance. The linkage of Easter to the lunar calendar is one way Christ is shown to be Lord of all, not excepting time and matter. Redeemed by the victory of his Christ, the movements of the heavens are ordered to give glory to God.

  9. Ed Peters says:

    You pick, say, the second Sunday in April as always being Easter. The numerical date would fluctuate slightly, yes, but not by the current swing of many weeks from year to year.

  10. Romulus says:

    Actually, the first Sunday of Advent is determined by reference not to Christmas but to the feast of St. Andrew, being the Sunday closest to that day.

    The first Sunday of Advent falls on a different date from year to year and yet the sky doesn’t fall. Hands off the date of Easter, say I — have we learned nothing from the past half-century’s contempt for the wisdom of tradition?

  11. Ed Peters says:

    I think it’s just a case of our having simpler, more accurate way of keeping track of major dates than the ancient world had (e.g., the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox). With so very very much in the Church tied to the marking of Easter, changing from year to year, variations in the date cause practical problems that earlier societies did not face. osistm. Best, edp.

  12. Henry Karlson says:

    The big problem is the reason why the East and West have ended up with different dates for Pascha: it is a different conception as to when Pascha took place, and this comes into the different ways communion is approached. The East sees the Last Supper happening outside of Passover, which is why leavened bread is used, the West sees it within Passover. The East makes sure its date promotes its understanding of communion and liturgy. The West does too.

  13. Romulus says:

    Ed, at the next Easter vigil, before you enter the church to hear the re-telling of Israel’s nighttime deliverance from Egypt, lift up your eyes and take note of the same moon lighting your own way as you celebrate your own Passover in Christ. Why would anyone wish to discard this God-given sacramental in the sky?

  14. Romulus says:

    Ed, the ancients (using a Julian calendar that remained functional for centuries) had no trouble figuring out the date of the Second Sunday in April, a calculation that has nothing to do with lunar movements. In linking Easter to the full moon, they understood exactly what they were doing.

  15. Ed Peters says:

    Thx, R. I make similar observations for students in my Liturgy and Sacraments course. But I also point out, and share, V2′s openness to fixing a date for Easter. Best, edp.

  16. Deacon Norb says:

    David
    “After all, one of the reasons for the Synod of Whitby in the 7th century, as chronicled by St. Bede, is that the Celtic and Roman churches were celebrating Easter on different days, and this was felt to be a problem.”

    Praise God! Someone on this blog besides me know what Whitby was all about. FYI:
    – In 1997, the Jarrow Lecture was delivered by a professor who guided me through the History Cognate of my own doctorate.
    –That same summer, early mid-July 1997, I was at Durham Cathedral placing my hands of Bede’s catafalque. My friend and driver said later that the look on my face was so strange he thought I was going to faint.

  17. D. Morgan says:

    We have already dismantled enough of our Tradition courtesy of “the spirit of Vatican II”, can we not at least leave Easter alone? At what point does changing Tradition to accommodate our need for convenience lead to changing the Faith for the same reason???

  18. Mike K says:

    Actually, using the Julian calendar (I presume that’s what you mean by the “traditional Church paschalian”) for the date of Easter would be tremendously impractical. Why? On the Julian calendar, the latest possible date for Easter is May 8. If Easter falls on May 8:
    - Ash Wednesday is on March 23, Ascension is June 16, and Pentecost is June 26.
    - The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity is July 3, Corpus Christi is July 10 (or July 7 if you want to stick with a Thursday) and Sacred Heart is July 15.

    And I can’t see a Corpus Christi procession in most of the US during the early-to-mid July period, unless you do it early in morning or after an evening Mass vigil or day of Mass.

  19. Ad Orientem says:

    Mike,
    Well I guess that puts the kabash on a common Easter then. Glad that’s settled. Moving on.

  20. naturgesetz says:

    The fact that it’s closest to St. Andrew is a coincidence. It’s the fourth Sunday before December 25.

    It’s not a matter of making Easter always fall on the same day. It’s a matter of getting together and settling on a rule that will make it shift the same for Catholics and Orthodox.

  21. naturgesetz says:

    Fortunately, I think we will never get to anything so divorced from our roots as to set Easter as the Second Sunday of April, or anything so divorced from the Passover. The only question is the precise relation to Passover. I hope if there is a common method chosen, it will no allow for having Easter nearly a month after Passover. Whether the Last Supper was a Passover Seder or not, it was at least close to Passover, as were the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. So the Western system, which does not deliberately separate them is preferable, IMO.

  22. Ed Peters says:

    To oppose the idea is fine, but it can’t be dismissed as capitulating “to the spirit of V2″; this WAS Vatican Two suggesting a fixed date. The proposal, thus, has better lineage than a 1970s clown liturgy workshop.

  23. Ed Peters says:

    It’s not as simple as that, n; one can’t just label the idea as “divorce”, and divorce is bad, so the idea must be bad. Else, we are guilty of ‘divorcing’ ourselves from a whole lot more of our Jewish roots than just the date of Easter. Starting with Mass on Sunday.

  24. D. Morgan says:

    Please give me the Document name and index where this was incouraged during V-II. Thank you.

  25. Ed Peters says:

    APPENDIX [to Sacrosanctum Concilium]
    A DECLARATION OF THE SECOND ECUMENICAL COUNCIL OF THE VATICAN ON REVISION OF THE CALENDAR
    The Second Ecumenical Sacred Council of the Vatican, recognizing the importance of the wishes expressed by many concerning the assignment of the feast of Easter to a fixed Sunday and concerning an unchanging calendar, having carefully considered the effects which could result from the introduction of a new calendar, declares as follows:
    1. The Sacred Council would not object if the feast of Easter were assigned to a particular Sunday of the Gregorian Calendar, provided that those whom it may concern, especially the brethren who are not in communion with the Apostolic See, give their assent.
    2. The sacred Council likewise declares that it does not oppose efforts designed to introduce a perpetual calendar into civil society.
    But among the various systems which are being suggested to stabilize a perpetual calendar and to introduce it into civil life, the Church has no objection only in the case of those systems which retain and safeguard a seven-day week with Sunday, without the introduction of any days outside the week, so that the succession of weeks may be left intact, unless there is question of the most serious reasons. Concerning these the Apostolic See shall judge.

    Okay? Edp.

  26. Brenda Agnessini says:

    Beautifully stated, Romulus.

    Would that Church leaders had your wisdom.

    Don’t you find it peculiar they refer to Easter as a “holiday”? Showing they already are losing touch with the spiritual significance and wanting it to be like any secular day, say Flag Day on June 14. Celebrations for man can go by man’s rules. Let us hold to the God-given traditions that we still have.

  27. Brenda Agnessini says:

    Why does everything have to be “simpler and accurate”? Guitar is simpler than organ. The vernacular is simpler than Latin. Tepid homilies are simpler than preaching the truth.

    We’ve made this mistake too often.

  28. Brenda Agnessini says:

    “Thou shalt make everything easy, simple and convenient.”

    Is that what we should even consider regarding the most important day of the year? Easter Vigils and morning services are jam-packed across the globe. Apparently figuring out the date is not difficult or inconvenient for most people.

    As for “a scandal to Muslims,” that takes the prize for most idiotic reason to adjust the calendar system. If we start adapting our religion so Muslims will like us, oh the stupidity!

  29. RomCath says:

    Well I think Mr Morgan got what he wanted. I didn’t see his reply. LOL

  30. RomCath says:

    I don’t care much if it is a fixed Sunday. I do think it would be nice if all Christians celebrated Easter on the same day. Not too concerned about what non-Christians think of it.

  31. D. Morgan says:

    Yes I did, Thank you Mr. Peters. RomCath, some of us do not live at a keyboard, quit being snarky! ;)

  32. pagansister says:

    Actually, what difference does it make when it is celebrated? Both are celebrating a spcial time in their respective faiths….to the same end.

  33. David_J_White says:

    Brenda,

    As for “a scandal to Muslims,” that takes the prize for most idiotic reason to adjust the calendar system. If we start adapting our religion so Muslims will like us, oh the stupidity!

    According my Orthodox friend with in-laws in Syria, it’s very difficult being a Christian in a Muslim-majority country. It’s very easy for us to sit here and say that causing scandal to the Muslims isn’t a big deal, or is “stupid”. It’s not about the Muslims “liking us”. And, really, is changing the date of Easter a case of “adapting our religion”? I don’t think so.

  34. David J. White says:

    Michele, as naturegesetz points out, I don’t think you quite get the point of “having the same date for Easter”. It doesn’t mean that Easter would be celebrated on a fixed *calendar* date every year (e.g.., always the first Sunday of April), but rather than all Christian churches would settle on a single method of calculating the date of Easter, so that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches would always be celebrating Easter on the same day every year.

    A colleague of mine is Orthodox, and his wife is Syrian, and he tells me that in the Middle East, the fact that Christians can’t agree on a date for Easter is a real scandal for the Muslims.

    If you read Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, disagreement on the date of Easter between the Celtic and Roman Churches was one of the reasons why the Synod of Whitby was called. It was considered a really big deal.

    I think that this is one area in which the Catholic Church could offer an ecumenical gesture to the Orthodox and agree to adopt the Orthodox method of dating Easter. It’s not as if it’s a doctrinal issue. The Protestants — which follow the Catholic Church on the dating of Easter anyway — would either follow suit, or be left as the outliers.

  35. David J. White says:

    Mike, I don’t really see the problem. And, for that matter, I don’t see many Corpus Christi processions in most of the US these days, anyway.

    Honestly, if the Catholic Church decided to adopt the Orthodox dating of Easter, I think most Catholics in the pews would barely notice. Most people celebrate Easter on whatever day the calendar hanging on their wall, and in their parish bulletin, tells them to.

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