Priestly Ponderings April 2015

The important message of Easter

 I have been asked so often “Why does the date of Easter change each year? Why can’t we set the date?” The reason the date of Easter changes is as follows:

  Easter Day is the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after the vernal equinox.

 As you might expect it’s not quite that simple – firstly the ‘full moon’ is not the observed astronomical full moon, but rather a ‘paschal’ or ‘ecclesiastical’ full moon that is calculated by formula to avoid the variations in the astronomical calendar, although the two usually correspond to within a day.  The vernal equinox is also fixed as the 21 March. This formula was first established by the First Council of Nicaea convened in 325 AD by Constantine.  The resulting tables are now used in all Western Christian churches.  (The eastern Orthodox churches use a different means of calculating Easter which can result in it falling on a different day.)

 I am sure you will agree that the formulae has all the hallmarks of something established by a committee!  As far as I have been able to determine there is no deep theological reason for it and neither would there be any theological objection to fixing Easter more closely – to this end the second Sunday in April has been suggested which would fix Easter between the 8th and 14th April – although agreement on this would require the establishment of a new committee…

 None of this is really important, it’s what we are celebrating at Easter as Christians which truly counts beyond a date in the diary! Every Sunday we celebrate the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, but we  focus on that event each year at a feast day called Easter ( “Easter” is a word derived from the Easter, the Teutonic goddess of spring).

 We do not need to complicate these facts anymore than I have done so already. Easter has a very simple message which is that Jesus Christ died for us all on the Cross by seeking forgiveness for our sins. Through this one act we have been forgiven all our sins. Now that is worth taking seriously and far more important than a date in the diary!

 May the Risen Christ be with you all this Easter.

 Rev  Jim Brown

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