Got Questions?

Several weeks ago, when we heard the story of Thomas questioning (doubting) the resurrection we talked in church about how having questions about our faith can be a good thing. Asking questions about the Bible, our faith tradition, etc. helps us to grow in knowledge and in faith. During that service everyone had the opportunity to write down questions they had about the Bible, church, faith, etc. Throughout the year I will be addressing these questions in newsletter articles and/or sermons. One of those questions was “What determines when Easter is?”

This is a great question….with a complicated answer. We all know that our Biblical tradition says that Jesus rose from the dead on the first Sunday following the feast of Passover. So inevitably, this means that Easter should be linked with Passover, but the date of Passover is a complicated thing. Theoretically, the date should be the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan, and it should correspond to a full moon (the Jewish calendar being partly lunar). In practice, it didn’t always work out that way. The month-moon cycles got out of sync, and sometimes feasts would be held on a “liturgical” full moon even when it was not an astronomical full moon. As a result, rabbis periodically had to announce when Passover would be celebrated. As time went on many Christians didn’t like being dependent on the pronouncements of rabbis for how to celebrate Christian holidays, so at the Council of Nicea (convened by Constantine the Great) in 325 A.D. a formula for developing the date for Easter was developed. At that time they were using the Julian Calendar (developed under the Roman Empire). Because the Julian calendar does not account for leap years the date became steadily further and further off target. So in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII executed a reform of the calendar that sets the vernal equinox to always fall on March 21. This means that Easter will always fall on the Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21. Thus, Easter will always be between March 22 and April 25. The Orthodox/Eastern churches still follow the Julian calendar  (we now use Gregorian) so that is why Orthodox Easter falls anytime between April 4 and May 8th. —Pastor Tara