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Will 2025 be the start of united date for Easter?

Liturgy in Greece for Holy Week

GIORGOS ARAPEKOS | NurPhoto via AFP

John Burger - published on 05/08/24

Upcoming jubilee on anniversary of First Ecumenical Council spurs on discussion for unity in celebration of Resurrection. Orthodox leader: "The time has come"

The leader of Greek Orthodox Christians throughout New England said that “the time has come for all of Christianity to celebrate Easter on the same day.”

Welcoming Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston to Orthodox Easter celebrations May 4, Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston said that he hopes the leaders of their two Churches will come to a solution this year so that there will no longer be separate celebrations of the Resurrection.

“As you said at the Chrism Mass, during the coming year, both the [Ecumenical] Patriarch [Bartholomew] and the Pope hopefully will sit down on the 1,700th anniversary of the first ecumenical synod [the Council of Nicaea] and come to an agreement as to what day exactly Easter should be celebrated,” Methodios said at the Divine Liturgy for Pascha at St. George Cathedral in Springfield.

Cardinal O’Malley was present for the Easter Vigil liturgy Saturday. He had invited Methodios to the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Tuesday of Holy Week.

“To mark the anniversary [of Nicaea], Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew are in conversations about how we can use this anniversary to further unity between our Churches,” the cardinal wrote on his blog. “One idea being considered is trying to come up with a common date for Easter.”

Providence

The date of Easter has been a sticking point in ecumenical dialogue between the Eastern and Western Churches for some time. Occasionally, Easter falls on the same date, and that will be the case in 2025, a year, coincidentally (or some might think providentially), in which the Christian world will mark the 1,700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council, held at Nicaea in the year 325. That council occurred, of course, when the Churches of East and West were still in communion, and one of the resolutions of Nicaea was determining the best way to calculate the date for Easter.

Next year, Easter will fall on April 20 for both Churches.

According to the OrthodoxWiki, before the Council of Nicaea, there had been a number of different methods for determining the date of the movable feast.

But the Fathers of Nicaea “chose to accept the Alexandrian practice of making a calculation independent of the Jewish Passover, stipulating also that the Paschal celebration had to follow the vernal equinox,” OrthodoxWiki said. “They thus rejected the Antiochian practice of making reference to Jewish reckoning when choosing the day of Pascha’s celebration.”

“Alexandria was the obvious choice for deference in this matter, as the city had long been renowned for the accuracy of its astronomers,” the online encyclopedia said. “To this day, the Pope of Alexandria retains a title which reflects this choice at Alexandria, sometimes translated as ‘Master of the Universe,’ but essentially referring to the ability to judge the astronomical state of the cosmos.”

A beginning in 2025?

When Catholics and other Christians in the West celebrated Easter on March 31 this year, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I expressed his prayer that next year’s common celebration of Easter “will not merely be a fortuitous occurrence but rather the beginning of a unified date for its observance by both Eastern and Western Christianity.”

“Among [the Council’s] pivotal discussions was the matter of establishing a common time frame for the Easter festivities,” Bartholomew said. “We are optimistic, as there is goodwill and willingness on both sides.”

Pope: We are ready

Pope Francis also has expressed his hope for a common date. In 2015, Francis said the two Churches “have to come to an agreement.”

When Francis received a visit from Mar Awa III, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, in 2022, he told him, “I want to say – indeed, to repeat – what Saint Paul VI said in his day: We are ready to accept any proposal that is made together.”

In 1997, the World Council of Churches published a paper, “Towards a Common Date for Easter.”

“One very sensitive issue, with enormous pastoral consequences for all the Christian faithful, has taken on growing urgency: the need to find a common date for the celebration of Easter, the Holy Pascha, the feast of Christ’s resurrection,” the paper said. “By celebrating this feast of feasts on different days, the Churches give a divided witness to this fundamental aspect of the apostolic faith, compromising their credibility and effectiveness in bringing the Gospel to the world. This is a matter of concern for all Christians. Indeed, in some parts of the world such as the Middle East, where several separated Christian communities constitute a minority in the larger society, this has become an urgent issue.”

Among other things, the WCC paper recommended that Churches maintain the Nicene norms (that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first vernal full moon). It recommended calculating the astronomical data (the vernal equinox and the full moon) by the most accurate possible scientific means and using as the basis for reckoning the meridian of Jerusalem, the place of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Tags:
CatholicismEasterOrthodoxyPope FrancisSpiritual Life
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