Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dating Easter

How do we date Easter?

Easter Procession
Why is Ash Wednesday and Lent so early this year? This article will primarily focus on the Western (Gregorian Calendar) way of dating Easter. The dating of Easter arises from the complicated joining of two different calendar systems. These calendars might be illustrated by the early story of Cain and Abel. If you are an Abel type, hunting, fishing, watching your flock by night, you will focus on the moon and the lunar cycle of 29 and a half days. Moonlight and tides will be significant to you. If you are a Cain type, a tiller of the ground and grower of crops, the solar cycle and its seasons will be more significant to you. The dating of Easter comes out of combining these solar and lunar calendars.
Passover - Pesach
The Jewish calendar is lunar. Twelve lunar months, with an occasional extra month popped in to keep up with the solar year. The month begins with new moon, and full moon, in the middle of the month, is the obvious time for extensive parties and festivals. There’s more light at night! Passover (Pesach) is the first full moon after the vernal (Northern Spring) equinox (14 of Abib in the Old Testament's Hebrew Calendar) (Lev 23:5). This was to be a "perpetual ordinance" (Exodus 12:14).
Nicaea on Easter
There appears confusion between the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and John on the relationship between the Passover celebration and Christ’s death. Added to that, some early Christians celebrated Pascha (Easter) on the Jewish festival of Passover, whilst others always celebrated it on the Sunday following. The former were called Quartodecimans (Latin: quarta decima, fourteen). The Council of Nicaea (325) decided against the Quartodecimans and in favour of Easter always being on a Sunday. Rather than produce a canon on this, they communicated this to the different dioceses and gave the Bishop of Alexandria the privilege of announcing annually the date of Easter. The Council of Nicaea determined that Easter would be the Sunday which follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox. If full moon happens to fall on Sunday, Easter is celebrated the following Sunday. Furthermore, it fixed the vernal equinox to be 21 March. By the sixth century complex mathematical methods had been devised, involving paschal cycles of 19 years in the East, and 84 years in the West. Hence Easter calculations are based not on the astronomical full moon but an "ecclesiastical moon," based on these created tables.

Link to the full article entitled, How do we date Easter from the blog Liturgy.

Easter and the Holy Eucharist by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. (here)


Maria said...

"In the measure that we believe in His Real Presence, He will teach us the truth, and work miracles in our favor, even greater than the wonders He had performed during His visible stay in Asia Minor."

Still the man, isn't he ? ;)

Mockingbird said...

As I noted on the Liturgy blog to which you link, so here:

Quartodecimanism was a long-dead issue by the time Nicea sat. The Easter controversy at Nicea was not about Quartodecimanism. It was between two schools of Sunday observance: "Jewish calendarists" who wanted to continue the old custom of consulting Jewish informants for the dates of the Jewish month of Nisan, and setting Easter to the third Sunday of that month; and "Independent calendarists" who thought the Church should independently compute its own, Christian Nisan, and set Easter to the third Sunday of the independently computed lunar month. Nicea sided with the "independent calendarists."

The West, Like the East and like the Rabbinic calendar, uses a 19-year Metonic cycle for Easter. An 84-year cycle has not been used anywhere for over a thousand years.