Monday, March 24, 2008

How the Day of Easter is Decided

As I look at the temperature seeing its 36 degrees in my old NJ neighborhood. I noticed that Easter 2008 is the earliest that I can remember, although I do remember an Easter snowstorm when I was a small child in the 60s. But as I think on this I started to wonder why Easter seemed so early this year. In 1984, it was in last April, where as it was the weekend my grandfather passed away. It is a moving target as to what date it is and it lead me to research how this came about.

The natural inclination is to think that Easter and Passover are on the same weekend. After all, the Gospels all speak of Jesus arriving in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. The Last Supper was the Passover Meal. And the offer to release Jesus was part of a Passover Custom. This year they are split. So how is it that Easter is now and Passover is in April this year and they are not concurrent?

In the early church, Easter was commemorated by the early Christians on the same day as Passover. But the problem with that method is it meant that Easter Sunday could be on a Tuesday or whatever day Passover landed on that year. This would be the basis in later discussion of why Easter will always be on a Sunday and should not stay strictly to the day that Passover falls on in any given year, which was based on the lunar events in a Jewish Calendar. So to determine the date, according to the Jewish calendar, Passover, is picked to be on the first full moon after the spring equinox.

The alternate method for picking the day was holding Easter Sunday the Sunday after Passover. When Constantine legalized Christianity for the Roman Empire in the 4th century, he commanded that the method of selecting Easter be normalized so that all Christians were celebrating Easter on the same day.

The council of Nicaea was held. In addition to addressing the problem with the Gnostics, and the heretics in the church by instituting the Nicene Creed, they also added to the discussion how Easter would be handled from there on out.

The basic decision was that Easter would always be on a Sunday because that was taken directly from the Gospel. They went on to extend the power to decide which Sunday to the Bishop of Alexandria and he solely would announce what Sunday would be Easter Sunday Each Calendar year.


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