As I am putting the finishing touches on my next Laudato Si’ post, I wanted to take a little break by posting something that hit the news a couple weeks ago: Pope Francis is open to fixing a date for Easter that will be universal among all Christians. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after (or on) the Vernal Equinox. Therefore, the date for Easter changes from year to year since the lunar cycle differs from our “paper calendar.” This range of dates, that can get a little confusing, doesn’t answer the question, “Why do Christians celebrate Easter on different days in the same year?” The answer to this question is that the Christian East and the Christian West use two, different calendars to determine Easter: the Gregorian Calendar in the West and the Julian Calendar in the East. Therefore, with two calendars determining a movable feast, there is bound to be a lot of confusion. For more information on these calendars, I put together a brief reflection this past Easter on the subject entitled, Holy Week and Easter: The Collision Point of Measured Time!
In light of this confusion, Pope Francis has publicly stated that he is open to exploring a fixed date for Easter that all Christians would observe. Here is a news brief that explains the Pope’s idea.
I want to emphasize that this was a proposal brought to the Pope. Based on this, it isn’t clear just how high this project would be on the priority list of the Vatican. However, I do think there are two speculations worth mentioning that could greatly impact the Church in a positive way if this dialogue were to be explored.
First, speaking as a Pastor, to fix the date of Easter would help establish a more predictable rhythm to the liturgical year for parishes. Those who do not work in the Church may not be aware of this, but if Easter falls very early or very late in the range of potential dates, there can be a number of ministerial challenges that arise in regard to sacramental preparation and Confirmation. Many of these conflicts have to do with the involvement of our young people with school and public programs that run in the spring. A fixed date for Easter would help avoid “church/community” clashes if everyone knows that Easter would be the same day every year (though its also safe to say that some of these clashes will always occur).
Second, on a much bigger scale, it has been mentioned that a common date for Easter may assist in the reconciliation process between the East and West. As a hobby astronomer, there is a little bit of romantic idealism in me, wanting to hold onto the current way of determining Easter due to its relationship with the lunar cycle. However, I would be happy to let go of that idealism if a fixed date for Easter could contribute to ending the scandal of the division between the historic Churches of East and West.
Friday spiritual exercise: Pray for the reunification of East and West. Pray that the division between the Churches cease so we can be drawn closer to one another and closer to the love of Jesus Christ.