We debate the date, but we all know Easter’s meaning

By WYATT EMMERICH,

Easter is late this year, April 21. Last year it was on April 1.

Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Easter can be as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.

The last time Easter was on March 22 was 1818. The last time Easter was on April 25 was 1943. The most common date of Easter is April 16, then April 5.

Setting the Easter date was a big controversy of early Christianity. Some wanted Easter observed on a Sunday. Others wanted to keep it on a day determined by a lunar date on the Jewish calendar, the day the Paschal lamb was traditionally slaughtered by the Jews.

Many church leaders did not want to celebrate Easter during the same time Jews were celebrating Passover.

At the First Council of Nicaea in 325, it was agreed that the Christians should observe a common date, independent from the Jewish calendar, which has some computational errors that was pushing Easter back later and later.

For the next few centuries, the controversy simmered because the actual amount of time for the earth to revolve around the sun does not perfectly match the hours, days, weeks and months of a fixed calendar. Many alternative methods of calculating the lunar calendar were proposed.

Around the 16th century, Christian church leaders adopted the more accurate “computus” method of calculating equinoxes and full moon dates. This is called the ecclesiastical calendar.

But over the years, even these highly accurate calculations have strayed, making the ecclesiastical dates slightly different from the actual, astronomical full moons and equinoxes.

For instance, this year the March astronomical equinox was Wednesday, March 20, while the first astronomical full moon in spring was on Thursday, March 21. If the church followed the timing of these astronomical events, this year’s Easter would be March 24, the Sunday after the full moon on March 21.

However, the full moon date in March specified by the church's ecclesiastical calendar was March 20, 2019 — one day before the ecclesiastical date of the March equinox, March 21. For that reason, this year’s Easter date is based on the next ecclesiastical full moon, which is on April 18. This is why Easter 2019 falls on April 21.

Is everybody clear on that?

Believe it or not, we’re still debating the date of Easter. In 1997, the World Council of Churches proposed a reform to replace the equation-based ecclesiastical dates with direct astronomical observation.

This would have also solved the Easter date difference between western churches that observe the Gregorian calendar and the eastern Orthodox churches that observe the Julian calendar. The reform was proposed to be implemented in 2001, but it is not yet adopted.

To make it really simple, the United Kingdom passed the Easter Act of 1928 to allow Easter to be fixed as the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. However, this law has never been implemented.

Other Easter dates are much easier.

Ash Wednesday (46 days before Easter)

Palm Sunday (one week before Easter)

Maundy Thursday (three days before Easter)

Good Friday (two days before Easter)

Easter Saturday (one day before Easter)

Easter Monday (one day after Easter)

Ascension Day (39 days after Easter)

Pentecost (49 days after Easter)

Whit Monday (50 days after Easter)

Trinity Sunday (56 days after Easter)

Corpus Christi (60 days after Easter)

 

Despite the debate over Easter’s date, we all agree what’s being celebrated: The rise of Jesus from the dead and his resurrection to a perfected body. The same resurrection that awaits the faithful.

The resurrection is a cornerstone of Christianity. As C.S. Lewis noted, there is no middle ground in which you can deny the resurrection yet credit Jesus as a great humanitarian leader. Jesus is either the Son of God or he is the biggest fraud in human history.

Mississippi is the most religious state in our nation. Seventy-seven percent of adults say Christianity is very important in their lives and pray daily. You can count me in that category.

Compare that to the United Kingdom, where only 27 percent say that religion is important in their lives.

The resurrected Jesus appeared to 500 people over 12 occasions 40 days after his death. We’re still in awe.

The resurrection seems miraculous to us, but then we didn’t create heaven and earth. For God, all things are possible. Our brains and senses, compared to God, are only slightly better than ants and mice. Human logic is a poor tool to attempt to prove or disprove the existence of God.

We are all enamored with computers these days. There’s a video game for everything. If humans can program video games, God can certainly program the universe. He can change the code any way he sees fit.

I am a believer through God’s grace which gives me faith. But I must admit, if you study the Bible, the dozens of prophecies are stunningly accurate. A rationalist would have a hard time explaining those away.

There have been so many convincing miracles in my life I could not even begin to list them all. One of my favorites was Easter a few years ago. In church, I prayed for greater faith. An hour later, I took a big bite out of the undercooked lamb from the River Hills buffet.

Several drops of blood fell on the white tablecloth and formed perfect crosses – yet another miracle to reinforce my faith.

 

 

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