Tuesday, January 19, 2016


While I think the Catholic Church and mainline Protestant Churches can agree on a common date for Easter, I have my doubts about the Eastern Orthodox Church completely agreeing as they are splintered even in their nationalism. And I doubt that the more fundamentalist Protestant sects are going to go along with a "one world government" as they would perceive this move and at the behest of the pope of Rome, the great anti-Christ in their minds.

In the south, we would have major, major confusion if not all the Protestants went along with a common date and the majority of Protestants in the south would be leery of going along with Catholics and more liberal Protestants.

But what about within our own Catholic Church? Would the SSPX go along with a changed Roman Calendar????? Would the EF calendar remain as it is and thus in one of the two Liturgies of the one Roman Rite Easter would be on a different day? We already have that with other major feasts celebrated on different days or suppressed in the OF calendar.

The establishment of a fixed date for Easter could cause the CDW to consider making the OF Calendar more like the Ordinariate's, with Septuagesima restored, the Octave of Pentecost restored as well as the ember days and Ordinary Time's name suppressed for a return to Time after Epiphany and Time after Pentecost as in the EF.


But this is what the Archbishop of Canterbury and others are saying about the reality of a common date for Easter either the second or third Sunday of April: 

The heads of the Christian churches are close to sealing a deal to fix the date of Easter, the Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed, ending more than a thousand years of confusion and debate.

The Church of England's Archbishop of Canterbury Most Reverend Justin Welby said the agreed date would be either the second or third Sunday of April.

He expected to make the change within 5-10 years, though he admitted that churches have been trying to agree on a date without success since the tenth century.

Archbishop Welby, Pope Francis, the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (head of the Greek Orthodox church) are all working towards a common date, he said.

If they can reach a deal, it will end one of the most noticeable rifts in the church, and have knock-on effects for schools, businesses and the travel industry across the Western World.

For one and a half millennia, for Anglicans and Catholics, Easter Sunday has been the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox – a convoluted formula which means the date can vary by more than a month from year to year.

For example, in 2016 Easter Sunday falls on March 27. Last year it was April 5, and next year it will be April 16.

To add to the confusion, the Eastern Orthodox Church calculates Easter differently using the old Julian calendar – this year Orthodox Easter falls on May 1.

In June last year, Pope Francis also signaled his desire to set a common date for Easter, telling a global gathering of priests in Rome "we have to come to an agreement".

He joked that Christians could say to one another "When did Christ rise from the dead? My Christ rose today, and yours next week", the Catholic News Agency reported.

And in May, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II wrote to the papal nuncio in Egypt proposing a common date for Easter.

Welby said he had discussed the idea in a recent meeting with Pope Tawadros in Cairo.

"The (Anglican) primates agreed this morning that we wish to join with Pope Tawadros in what looks like a promising chance of unifying and fixing the date on which Easter is celebrated by the global Church," he said.

"At the moment most of us spend this part of the year saying 'now when exactly is Easter this year'… Pope Tawadros has put forward the idea to churches in the Eastern tradition and the Western tradition that it be fixed somewhere around the second or third Sunday of April.

"We have agreed that we support that."

Pope Tawadros had also discussed the matter with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – the 'first among equals' in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Anglican church has warned the UK government that agreement was "coming up".

"I would expect (the change) between 5 and ten years time," Welby said. "I can't imagine it would be earlier than that, not least because most people have probably printed their calendars for the next five years.

"And school holidays and so on are all fixed and it effects almost everything you do in the spring and summer.

"I would love to see it before I retired.

"Equally, I think the first attempt to do this was in the tenth century, so it may take a little while."
Once the churches agree, governments (including in New Zealand) will have to pass or amend legislation in order to put it into effect.

In 1928 the UK parliament actually passed legislation allowing Easter Sunday to be fixed to the Sunday after the second Saturday in April.

The same year, the Australian premiers of NSW, Victoria and South Australia all agreed to pass an act setting a fixed date for Easter, on the same day as the UK.

The Canberra Times reported in 1929 that the "vagueness" of the ancient calculation "is disturbing the business and social arrangements, and, therefore, affects us all … Easter is always a matter of doubt until we are definitely reassured. There is no real reason why it should not be fixed."

The story reported that there was an international push for a fixed Easter, led by a committee appointed by the League of Nations, which had approached the Holy See and the Orthodox Eastern Church.

The Vatican said "it had no objection from the viewpoint of dogma", and the Orthodox church said "it would agree to stabilisation if all Christian Churches did".

Then in 1929 both South Australia and Western Australia passed legislation setting Easter Day to the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April.

However, the international push petered out and the legislation gathered dust. The UK Act was never activated by official proclamation.

South Australia's Easter Act was repealed officially in 1994.

The current Easter formula was agreed at the First Council of Nicaea in 325, a gathering of Catholic bishops requested by Emperor Constantine to settle various warring creeds and sects within the church.

Though the Roman church already agreed that Easter should be on a Sunday, different cities and sects disagreed on the date, some because they didn't want it to be associated with the Jewish Passover.
Even centuries after Nicaea there were still some standouts – especially in Britain, where Christians insisted on sticking to an old formula. It wasn't until the Synod of Whitby in 664 that the 'Roman Easter' was accepted in northern Britain.


James said...

I'm not sure whether this represents a powerful affirmation of Christian unity, or a joint caving-in to secular imperatives. But it's good that the drive for change seems to be coming from the churches themselves rather than governments.

I'd assumed until now that the date of Easter was still tied to that of Passover/Pesach, but apparently I'm 17 centuries behind the times.

Marc said...

The Orthodox would never agree to a change in the date of Easter. There were near schisms (and some actual schisms) when the dates other than Easter were changed. The date of Easter was decided by a council, so there can be no change according to the Orthodox. This is not an issue that the various Orthodox churches disagree on -- they all celebrate Easter on the same day.

I hope the SSPX would not go along with this proposed change since it is ridiculous.

CharlesG said...

This will just cause more diversity, confusion and schisms, plus break one tie with our elder brethren in faith. Let me preemptively start the inevitable "bring back our moveable feasts!" movement.

John Nolan said...

Greek and Latin Easter coincided in 2010 and 2011 and will do so again next year, and then not again until 2025. The Greeks are using a calendar which is now 13 days adrift (14 days next century) and only anti-Catholic sentiment prevents them adopting the Gregorian calendar (which is why protestant Britain didn't adopt it until 1752). So let them do as they like.

The only authority which can fix the date of Easter for the Latin West is the Holy See. The Anglican communion and the Lutheran ecclesial community regard themselves as part of the Latin Church and would go along with its being fixed (say) on the Sunday following the first Saturday in April. It wouldn't affect the liturgical calendar too much since Ascension and Pentecost would still follow after forty and fifty days respectively. In England Whitsuntide (the octave of Pentecost) was a holiday in medieval times and after the Industrial Revolution it was customary for mills and factories to close. Whit Monday was a Bank Holiday until 1978 when it was fixed and referred to as the Spring Bank Holiday. It does not usually coincide.

Why should the SSPX object? Even liturgically they accept the EF calendar as revised in 1960 and the 1955 Ordo for Holy Week, although the latter has Bugnini's paw-prints all over it. As for multitudinous and insignificant protestant sects, if they decided to pray five times a day facing Mecca I wouldn't give a brass farthing. They accept the popish Gregorian calendar and would be hard pressed to find anything in Scripture that says that Easter must be on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

CharlesG, who exactly are 'our elder brethren in faith'? If you mean the Jews, the phrase is inaccurate and misleading. In any case, this year the Passover begins at sunset on 22 April. Good Friday is on 25 March.

Anonymous said...

As it stands now we have people complaining that we shouldn't have Christmas called "Christmas" and Easter called "Easter". I think the most likely thing to happen, if there is a change to the date of Easter, is that the secular world will decide to dump Easter all together from the calendar and substitute a holiday instead at some convenient time for each country. The same will probably follow for Christmas. The Pope shouldn't be trying to fix things that ain't broke. He has caused enough problems already. Imagine if the feasts of Easter and Christmas disappear from the calendar, many Catholics will be expected to work on Good Friday and Christmas Day when it falls on a week day. This idea will put the whole celebration of these feasts into jeopardy.

John Nolan said...

Jan, because Easter is early this year, retailers are complaining that the 'run up to Easter' is too short. However, when Easter falls in mid-April there are distinct liturgical advantages. Epiphanytide is not cut short by Septuagesima, and the Annunciation does not have to be transferred because it falls in Holy Week. The secular world loves Christmas and Easter. Oliver Cromwell's attempt to ban Christmas caused great resentment and Good Friday has long been a public holiday under common law. Some people (Catholics included) may have to work on this day, and indeed on Christmas day, but the idea of a government removing these holidays is extremely far-fetched.

Easter was named after a pagan goddess and there isn't anything specifically Christian about Easter eggs and Easter bunnies. (Easter eggs went on sale in my local supermarket before the end of December.)

Unknown said...

Jan, where are you from?

I ask because neither Easter nor Good Friday have been a national holiday in the US since I've been alive. Easter is on a Sunday, so no holiday there. Most people I know work on Good Friday unless they specifically take the day off (as I normally do).

Anonymous said...

Flavius, I didn't realise that the States were out of sync with the rest of us:

"Good Friday is a widely-instituted legal holiday in many national governments around the world, including in most Western countries (especially among Anglican and Catholic nations) as well as in 12 U.S. states.[6] Some governments, such as Germany, have laws prohibiting certain acts, such as dancing and horse racing, that are seen as profaning the solemn nature of the day.[7][8]"

In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Good Friday is an official public holiday[55] (a.k.a. Bank Holiday). All schools are closed and most businesses treat it as a holiday for staff; however, many retail stores now remain open.

Good Friday is a state holiday in Connecticut,[59] Delaware,[60] Florida,[61] Hawaii,[62] Indiana,[63] Kentucky,[64] Louisiana,[65] New Jersey,[66] North Carolina,[67] North Dakota,[68] Tennessee[69] and Texas.[70] State and local government offices and courts are closed, as well as some banks and postal offices in these states, and in those counties and municipalities where Good Friday is observed as a holiday. Good Friday is also a holiday in the U.S. territories of Guam,[71] U.S. Virgin Islands[72] and Puerto Rico.[73]

Anonymous said...

Well, John, I wouldn't be so sure in the presence PC climate. There are calls for a ban on Christmas and Easter from time to time and with a suggested change to the calendar will surely open a Pandora's Box - such as:

RELIGIOUS groups have launched an attack on Christmas — calling for it to be renamed and toned down.

A leading Islamic body says the use of the term “Christmas” is politically incorrect because it excludes too many people in multicultural Australia.

The Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations wants a community debate to find an alternative — suggesting the word “festive” as a possible replacement.

And a Queensland Jewish leader has called for an end to the “automatic imposition” of Christmas on the community, saying the season has been reduced to a “shopping festival”.

Also, the Remnant newspaper - who in many ways I think are spokesmen for the SSPX - indicate it wouldn't be looked on favourably in some circles and would cause problems for the 1962 Missal in particular:

"3. A fixed date of Easter would most likely be seriously problematic for the liturgical calendar of the 1962 Missale Romanum and Breviarium Romanum. As seen above, any necessary changes to the current calendar mechanics would not be minor ones. And who is competent to make these changes to the traditional Roman Mass per its authentic liturgical spirit (as opposed to that of the modernist Novus Ordo Missae)—the Congregation of the Divine Worship and Liturgy, the Ecclesia Dei Commission? One must wonder if they would insist on adding to the calendar of saints persons whose canonizations have been seriously called into doubt.

Though in itself fixing the date of Easter Sunday is a legitimate notion, due to the abovementioned issues, the current attempt to reach an agreement would most likely have tragic results. It is often said that God can draw straight with crooked lines, while He can always draw good out of an evil situation. Perhaps in this light, the renowned and previously cited obstinacy of the Eastern Orthodox will work in favor of preventing a fixed date of Easter at this time."

Unknown said...

Ah, that's why. I'm from Georgia.

John Nolan said...


Some years ago a colleague of mine taught on an exchange scheme at a high school in Cleveland, Ohio. The staff were not allowed to say 'Merry Christmas' because the school traditionally had had a lot of Jewish students. My colleague (a staunch Methodist) was somewhat perturbed at this, not least since the area had recently gone down-market, which meant that the Jews had left and the blacks had moved in.

No-one needs to be suborned by political correctness. Christmas is the ancient mid-winter festival which to the Romans was Saturnalia. In the British Army there is a custom whereby the officers wait on the men at dinner - in pagan Rome the slaves were symbolically freed for the season. It's going to be a holiday, whether you call it Christmas, Yule or Winterval.

Easter will have to be a Sunday and so can't be completely fixed. The only problems in the liturgical calendar arise from the fact that the date of Easter can vary from up to a month. Easter last year was on 5 April. It didn't cause any problems with the calendar. If, this year, it were on the 10 April rather than 27 March what additional problems would be caused? You need to be specific.