January 31, 2016

Fixing Easter

There is a move afoot in some ecumenical circles to find a common date for the observance of Easter. I won't go into the calendrical problems here — you can read about it on Wikipedia — but some churches follow the archaic Julian calendar, while others accept the Gregorian revision that brings the astronomical year into better sync. This leads to Easter being celebrated on different days by different Christian traditions. (There are also some splinter groups who don’t like either of these solutions, which further complicates things.)

Beyond that, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has suggested that not just a common date, but a fixed date, would be even better; which is to say, for instance, that Easter might always fall on the second Sunday in April. He has argued that this would be ever so much more rational and helpful for the business world and for the schools. He may be singing the lost number from My Fair Lady, “Why can't Easter be more like Michaelmas?” — but he also seems to me to be upending a longstanding tradition primarily so as to make the merchants more comfortable in the Temple precincts. Such a move might be more rational for the schools and banks, but, to paraphrase Jane Austen, "it would not be near so much like Easter."

While I certainly support the effort to settle on the calendar, Julian or Gregorian, to find a common date for the observance for Easter, I think in fixing a date we would miss something literally cosmic about the traditional dance of the sun and moon and earth that governs the commemoration.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

7 comments:

Marshall Scott said...

Not to mention an organic connection of Easter with Passover. Even the Jewish Chaplain who works with me finds this appalling.

Amanda in the South Bay said...

Welby may very well be able to get the CofE on board, (and the rest of English Protestantism?) but there's not even a remote smidgen of a chance that the Orthodox will ever, ever get on board. Just look at how much grief the Church of Finland gets for following Western Easter. It'd make the Old Calendar schisms look like childs play. Perhaps Welby should've stuck to the business world.

Charles Plantz said...

"the traditional dance of the sun and moon and earth." Very well said.

Georges Staelens said...

The only solution to the "dubble" Easter, "dubble" Xmas etc. is that all the Easterners would adopt the Gregorian astronomic calendar. The Eastern Churches are parted in three categories: 1. those who use the Julian calendar for all the feasts; 2. those who use the Gregorian for the fix feasts, but the Julian for mobile feasts; those who use the Gregorian for all the feasts (Orth. Churches of Finland and Armenia, and some Western-Rite Orth. jurisdictions).

This year we have the concurrence of Good Friday and Annunciation, and this is beautiful. But this only happens to those who have the Gregorian calendar entirely.

Justin Welby, once more, doesn't understand much of theology. This happens when dropouts become bishops.

Tobias Haller said...

The Great and Holy Synod of Eastern churches set to meet later this year has on its agenda dealing with the Old Julian and Revised Julian calendars -- no mention of the Gregorian.

My sense is that we are here dealing with a communication gap on Welby's part. I don't think he realizes the depth of Orthodox opposition to anything like a "fixed" date for Easter. I believe he is mishearing "common" as "fixed" in these discussions.

Georges, do you know Donne's lovely poem about the concurrence of Annuciation and Good Friday? A powerful meditation. I will be posting it later this year....

merrymike said...

Thanks. Notice that the Western Church's Collect for Annunciation highlights the Passion and Resurrection. Their relaltionship has long been enshired in the liturgy. Good preaching material also. Yes, Welby might well have stuck with the business world.

Small Olympian Bear said...

As a Roman Catholic child, about 70 years ago, I was taught that Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after any day after March 25. What's wrong with that? (joke). I've remembered it for decades.

Susan Miller-Coulter