Pope Francis suggests Common Date for Easter

Catholic News Agency has the story. No particular formula for setting the date of Easter is being suggested by the Pontiff.

From my book: Important Dates in the Lives of Jesus and Mary

The current date for Easter is determined based on the date of the Spring Equinox of Jerusalem from the year A.D. 325 (the year of the Council of Nicaea), which was March 20 in the Julian calendar. The date for Easter used by Catholics and Protestants does not depend on the current date for the Spring Equinox, but rather still uses the fixed date of March 20, in the Gregorian calendar. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 20. However, the date used for the full moon is not the exact astronomical full moon for Jerusalem, nor for any specific location, but is based on charts giving an approximate date for the full moon (termed the Ecclesiastical Full Moon).

In the Julian calendar, the date given for the Spring Equinox of Jerusalem has gradually changed to its current date of approx. March 7. This change from March 23 to March 7 for the Spring Equinox occurred because the Julian calendar system has too many leap days, approximately 3 too many leap days for every 400 years. The excessive number of leap days leads to a calendar year which is, on average, longer than the true solar year. Thus the date given to the Spring Equinox of Jerusalem in the Julian calendar now differs by 13 days from the Gregorian calendar date of March 20, and by 16 days from the date during the time of Christ’s Ministry (March 23).

The Orthodox Church still uses the date of March 20 in the Julian calendar to determine the date of Easter, even though the Spring Equinox in the Julian calendar now falls on March 7. The date of March 20 in the Julian calendar was the date established by the Council of Nicaea in determining dates for Easter. Since the date of March 20 in the Julian calendar now falls 13 days later than the date of March 20 in the Gregorian calendar, the dates for Easter in the East and West usually do not agree. Easter is generally celebrated at a later date in the East than in the West.

The main source of the different dates for Easter is the use of the fixed date of March 20 in place of the date of the Spring Equinox. If all Christians would agree to use the actual date for the Spring Equinox, then all Christians will be able to agree on a uniform date for Easter.

I suggest to the One Christian Church the following. Let Easter be celebrated everywhere on the same day, on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox of Jerusalem. The Spring Equinox will be determined as the exact time and date of the astronomical Spring Equinox for the location of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Standard Time). The full moon will be likewise determined as the exact time and date of the astronomical full moon for the location of Jerusalem. The first full moon whose exact time and date occurs after the exact time and date of the Spring Equinox of Jerusalem will be the Paschal Full Moon and will be used to determine the date of Easter. Thus the Spring Equinox and the Paschal Full Moon could occasionally occur on the same calendar day, as long as the time for the full moon follows after the time for the Spring Equinox. Easter Sunday will be the first Sunday after the exact time and date of the Paschal Full Moon. If the Paschal Full Moon falls on a Sunday, Easter shall be the next Sunday, one week later. Easter Sunday must not begin before the exact time and date of the Paschal Full Moon of Jerusalem. Easter Sunday must not be celebrated on the same calendar day as the Spring Equinox, nor as the Paschal Full Moon, because then the day of Sunday would begin before the Spring Equinox or before the Paschal Full Moon. Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday, which begins after the time and date of the first full moon, which begins after the time and date of the Spring Equinox, for the location of Jerusalem.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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