Bosco Peters discusses a recently discussed (and probably not going anywhere) proposal to get Christians of various communions to celebrate Easter on a fixed date on the Gregorian calendar. Working toward this common date are Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, Roman Catholic Pope Francis, the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (of the Greek Orthodox church).
Bosco provides an excellent, brief summary of why figuring out the date of Easter can be such a headache, and why Catholics and Protestants celebrate on a different date than the Orthodox. Along the way, he makes a number of important points about the nature of calendars and how they tie us to the natural world. He writes,
Although I won’t oppose a fixed Easter date, I do think there is quite a loss in doing so. We mix two calendars: A nomad’s calendar, (represented by Abel in the Bible); nomads follow a lunar calendar (with the four lunar phases the most probable source of the weekly cycle that has never been broken for millennia). The solar calendar would be Cain’s calendar, with its annual sowing and harvesting. Christmas is a purely solar celebration. Our planet is essentially in the same spot on our solar orbit each Christmas Day, December 25.
Easter, on the other hand, is essentially lunar – and when we walk out to go to the Easter Vigil, the slightly waned Full Moon shines down, and does so as we gather around the sacred new Easter Fire.
We live in a world where most are increasingly losing touch with nature. Without looking, could you tell someone what phase the Moon is in? Most cannot. Most cannot even tell me which way the Moon waxes and wanes, or identify stars or planets. Fixing the date of Easter will be convenient for our world and its focus on the god of commerce, but we will lose yet another connection with nature, our planet, its moon, and our place in this amazing solar system.
I would love for all Christians everywhere to celebrate Easter (or Pascha) on the same date, but I’m skeptical that this plan, which would place Easter on a set Sunday in the month of April every year, will gain much traction. Though the lunar calculations take a bit of effort, I wonder what we would lose by disconnecting Easter not only from its relationship to the lunar cycle but also its relationship to the Jewish faith—which connection is already lost on many in the church!
If I could wave a magic wand (or crozier), I would decree that Easter always be celebrated on the Sunday after Passover. Period. This rule would have the added benefit of underscoring Christianity’s indebtedness to our Jewish neighbors, with whom we share large portions of our spiritual traditions, not to mention our Scriptures.