I envied the IT manager for a company I worked with in Dubai. He was an Indian Christian living in a Muslim country. He would take every holiday going from Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, though Easter and onto Ramadan.
This up and coming weekend is Easter. A four-day holiday which, at least for the British will again be celebrated by rain. At least, as one forecaster said, it won’t snow. Well, it might as well snow. We have only just got over Christmas. It feels like winter and it was only last week that the season was officially reclassified as Spring.
We accept that Easter moves around but this isn’t the earliest date. I know you won’t remember but in 1761 Easter fell on March 22nd but among more recent history you may recall the Easter Sunday of March 23rd in 2008.
On the other hand, in 2000 we had to wait until April 23rd. If you thought that was a plan to encourage a sunny day, you were wrong. It didn’t lead to bright brilliant days of picnics and decorating the May Pole. Showers affected many parts of the British Isles during the day, these being thundery over W and N England, Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of SE Scotland during the afternoon and evening.
How did this all happen? The First Council of Nicea, a council of Christian bishops convened unsurprisingly in Nicea by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325AD, fixed Easter and a whole load of other Christian stuff.
They were a properly organised and busy bunch who sorted out:
- The Arian question;
- The celebration of Passover;
- The Meletian schism;
- The Father and Son one in purpose or in person;
- The baptism of heretics;
- The status of the lapsed in the persecution under Licinius.
To be honest, I have no idea what most of this was all about, but Maddie will have it all her fingertips and if anyone is interested I will pass on your questions to her for an answer.
It looks like quite a meaty agenda, and the Council worked on it for a month and out of the 300 plus delegates, everything was unanimously agreed. Maybe we also need to research how they organised themselves to do so much in such a short timescale. The EC and other such might learn something.
The bishops in Nicea decided that Easter Sunday, the anniversary of Christ’s resurrection, would always be on the first Sunday following the paschal full moon. That means the next full moon after the spring equinox.
Christmas Day is a fixed date, 25th December but Easter must always occur on a Sunday because that was the day of Christ’s Resurrection, and so the date is always moving around
The reason for choosing the paschal full moon is that it’s the date of Passover in the Jewish calendar, and the Last Supper (Holy Thursday) occurred on the Passover. Therefore, Easter is the Sunday after Passover.
However, the paschal full moon can be on different days in different time zones and that would produce variations on Easter. Realising this, the Church decided that the full moon is always determined to be the 14th day of the lunar month. The Church also fixed the spring equinox as March 21.
Have you got all that? Basically, Easter is fixed around the Jewish festival of Passover.
It’s a total mess. No one knows what’s happening. When does the school terms finish? Getting married at Easter, 2020? Who knows what dates to put in the diary.
I just hope that you don’t live in the UK and pray at a Coptic Church. The Coptic and Orthodox churches, celebrate Easter based on the Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar used in the West. The Eastern church also ensures Easter always falls after Passover but has a different way of calculating the date of the spring equinox. If you can wait until 2336 then Easter, in the Coptic Church will be May 10.
Don’t worry the Church of England is on the case. In 2016 The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that the date of Easter could be fixed to one day within the next ten years, hoping to end one of the longest disputes in church history. Apparently, Justin is going to phone Pope Francis and the Coptic Pope to see if we can have the festival celebrated on the same day each year across the world.
I have some advice to the Archbishop. Look at the very long-range weather forecast and find the wettest and coldest day and fix that as Easter. After all, that is what the Bishops of Nicea managed to do.