So, why is there such uncertainty over determining the date of this seminal holiday so significant to so much of the world?
|First Council of Nicaea (325)|
I understand that officially the First Ecumenical Synod ruled in 325 that Easter Sunday should fall on the Sunday that follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox (the point at which the ecliptic intersects the celestial equator, the sun having a northerly motion) and the invariable date of the vernal equinox is March 21. If the full moon happens to fall on a Sunday, Easter is observed the following Sunday.
Before the year 325 the determination of the date for Easter (or Pascha) seemed relatively easy. Just ask the Jews in your community when they celebrated Passover according to the lunar-based Hebrew Calendar (now into its 5771st year), because the Jewish Holiday of Passover (or Pesach) was the occasion for the Last Supper. The only dispute appeared to be over whether Easter should be celebrated on the Hebrew calendar’s date of Nisan 14 or the following Sunday.
|Original mural by Leonardo Da Vinci between 1495-1498|
The First Ecumenical Synod changed all that by calculating the exact date of Easter from the more modern, cycles of the sun-based Julian calendar. And even though some in the Church did not agree with that determination, it became Christianity’s generally accepted method for calculating the date of Easter and continued to be so for more than five hundred years after the Great Schism of 1052 separated the Church of the West to Rome and the Church of the East to Constantinople (Istanbul).
|Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585)|
Indeed, as recently as 1997 the World Council of Churches proposed a method of using modern scientific knowledge for precisely calculating Easter and replacing divergent practices. It was not adopted.
All of which means that (based upon our everyday calendar), Easter for Western Christianity always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25, and for most of Eastern Orthodoxy on a Sunday between April 4 and May 8—at least during the 21st Century.
|A White House Passover Seder|
But no matter what calendar you follow, with all my heart I wish you Happy Easter, Kalo Paska, and Zissen Pesach. And a special message of love to my grandson, who turns four today.