Mar 27, 2008

Easter vs. Pascha?

Most people had their Easter this past weekend and several people were interested, when, asked if Hannah had fun hunting eggs I said, "Oh our Easter's not for another month." So, here is an explanation Dax originally put on his facebook as to why. It may be a little technical but that's how it is sometimes. A bit of Christian history never hurt anyone. If you're interested, read on!

by Dax
Since most of you are about to celebrate Easter this weekend, I thought I would post a note about why the Orthodox Church has a different date. First of all, we usually don't refer to it as Easter, but Pascha (Passover)- {pronounced Pa-ska}. This refers to Christ being the passover lamb. Anyway, there were a few problems with the celebration of Pascha in the 4th century when the First Ecumenical Council met in Nicaea in 325. One of these was that Christians were celebrating Pascha at different times. The other was that the Jewish reckoning for Passover had changed since the time of Christ due to the fall of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jewish people. Passover was to be celebrated after the Spring Equinox, since the harvest was important for the celebration. With the new Jewish reckoning, Passover could occur before the Equinox. This is why the First Council said not to celebrate "with the Jews," since Passover was not being celebrated at the correct time.

So what is the correct time? Well, at the time of Christ and of the Council, the Julian Calendar was still in effect. Today, the Julian Calendar is 13 days behind the common Gregorian Calendar, which was adopted in the West in the 14th century. This effects the date of the Spring Equinox, which the Council had set to always be on March 21st (now April 3rd on the Julian Calendar).

What does this have to do with Easter? Well, Passover is to be celebrated after the first full moon after the Equinox. Therefore, Pascha is to be celebrated after the first full moon after the Equinox. If you follow the calendar from the time of Christ, that means that Pascha would be the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after April 3rd (in today's world),and therefore always after Passover. If you follow the Gregorian Calendar, it would be the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after March 21st.

It should be noted that the Orthodox Pascha never falls before the Jewish Passover for this reason, but the Western Easter often does, like this year for example. Occasionally, we celebrate Pascha on the same day, solely dependent on the lunar cycle. There are also cycles for the dates that are involved, a 19 year cycle in the East,and an 84 year cycle in the West, but these can just confuse the subject.

So, for all of my non-Orthodox friends, have a Happy Easter this weekend!!!

No comments: