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.
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 Chambésy 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?
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