Will there be a common date for Easter? Ever?

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Do you ever think of the (dis)unity of Christians? Are you concerned enough to pray for the unity of the Churches? Today after Mass I prayed a prayer that asked God the Father to give us the grace of unity among Christians while He also fixes the errors that exist among the same. A tall order I know but I am known for bold requests! For some time I've been praying that one day--in my lifetime-- that among some Christian churches we can observe a common date of Easter if not also a common altar. Needless to say, I am saddened by the fact that most Christians don't have an issue with the various Christian churches and ecclesial communities celebrating Easter on different days. I lament this apathetic approach to our observing THE most solemn day of our Lord and Savior's triumph over sin and death.

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Admittedly, the problem of a common date for Easter is nearly as old as Christianity itself. History shows us that when the Apostles formed the various Christian communities under the power of the Spirit and by their work of evangelization differing opinions surfaced on how and when to commemorate Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. Most often differing opinions were based on how the four gospels recorded the events of our salvation. We know the first attempt at deciding a common date for Easter began with the Council of Nicaea (325). The Council taught that the date of Easter would be the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. However, there was no method for calculating the full moon or the vernal equinox.

Today, we have the practice of the Orthodox churches who use the March 21st of the Julian calendar as the date of the equinox, while the churches of the Western tradition  base their calculations on the Gregorian calendar.  Hence, a window of difference is five weeks exists. Hmmm!!!???

According to a report on a recent seminar in the Ukraine attended by Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant theologians of Europe, all participants endorsed a compromise proposed at a 1997 World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation in Aleppo, Syria. Notice that no North American theologians' opinions were considered. The proposal made was to keep the Nicaea rule but calculate the equinox and full moon using the accurate astronomical data available today, rather than those used many years ago. Brilliant, if you ask me!  Now I wonder of the  churchmen who head these churches also agree.

Recently, the French Orthodox theologian Professor Antoine Arjakovsky, director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies, pointed out: "Whilst the astronomic reckoning of the Nicean rule comes closer to the Gregorian calendar than to the ancient Julian one, the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches did take a step towards the Orthodox churches in Aleppo, accepting that the date of Easter should be established on the base of a cosmic calendar rather than by a fixed date as had been proposed prior to the inter-Orthodox meeting in Chamb├ęsy in 1977."

In 2010 and 2011 there is a convergence of calendars which will produce a common Easter date that may, one hopes, serve as an opportunity for all Christians to join together for a celebration that is not based on mere coincidence. By Easter 2012 (April 8), can we hope that a date based on exact astronomical reckoning and celebrated by all Christians?

It seems that it's not only theology or the calendar's calculations that's the problem but the ecclesial relations among the communities of faith. Sad if you ask me.

1 Comments

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Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.

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This page contains a single entry by Paul Zalonski published on July 10, 2009 10:30 AM.

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