March 31, 2024

When is Easter?

By Glenn

Easter is a festival rooted in the Gospels and Exodus. In the Gospels, the Romans execute Jesus during the Jewish Passover feast. The Greek name is Paschal feast. The German word is Easter. 

Exodus tells the Jews to celebrate the night the Angel of death “passed over” the Hebrew houses smeared with the blood of new born lambs. This was the last of the plagues and convinced the Pharaoh to liberate the Hebrews from slavery.

Since the Jews follow a lunar calendar, their year does not follow a regular patter like the Julian/Gregorian calendar. The Julian/Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and more regular except for leap years. Muslims also use a lunar calendar. That is why Ramadan moves too.

The Jewish year begins with the first new moon after the Vernal equinox. Astrologers used to carefully watch and predict this celestial event. Sundown on that night begins the day of Nissan. It does not happen on the same day every year. It can be almost a month off. 

Exodus requires an annual sacrificial lamb on the 14th of Nissan. That night Hebrews share a Seder meal and reflect on captivity and liberation. Three of the Gospels say that Jesus shared a Seder, broke bread and was betrayed. The next day the Romans hung him.

The fourth, and “youngest”, Gospel claims that Jesus was crucified on the 14th of Nissan, or the day of sacrificial lambs. This is a profound theological statement. 

Jesus is the pascal lamb. He defeated death, not for a night, but for eternity. 

The Catholic Church set the celebration of Easter as the first Sunday the Spring Equinox. After the Roman and Greek Orthodox Churches split, the Greek Orthodox Church refused to recognize Pope Gregory’s updated calendar and the days of the two calendar’s don’t line up anymore. They don’t have the same “Sundays”. For both Churches, it s a moveable feast. 

Bonus: The Church in Jerusalem also created celebrations for Holy Week. These rituals follow the last week of Jesus. There are specific sites associated with these event.

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