Why does Easter keep moving around? My friend Pauline explains it for us:
“Have you ever wondered why Easter Sunday can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25? And why Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate Easter on a different day than Western churches?
In Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon date of the year. It has previously, and somewhat erroneously been stated, ‘Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full moon after the spring equinox.’ This statement was true in 325 AD when it was established by the Council of Nicea. However, the course of history has modified the meaning of this rule.
In actuality, the date of the Paschal Full Moon is determined from historical tales, and has no correspondence to lunar events. In the year 325 AD astronomers approximated the dates of all the full moons in the year for Western Christian Churches. These were called the Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates, and they have been used ever since 326 AD to determine the date of Easter. The Paschal Full Moon can vary as much as two days from the date of the actual full moon, with dates ranging from March 21 to April 18. Therefore Easter dates can range from March 22 through April 25 in the Western Church. Western churches use the Gregorian calendar to calculate the date of Easter, and Eastern churches use the Julian calendar. This explains the discrepancy in dates.
The Eastern Orthodox Church not only maintains the date of Easter based on the inaccurate Julian calendar from 325 AD, but since that time a full 13 days has accrued. The Eastern Church adheres to the tradition that Easter must always fall after the Jewish Passover, since Christ died, and rose after Passover.
Determining the precise date of Eater has, since the beginning, been contentious. The followers of Christ neglected to record the exact date of Jesus’ resurrection.
As a rule, the easiest explanation is: ‘Easter is usually celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox, but never before March 22 or after April 25.
We rejoice with Saint Paul’s sobering message: If Christ did not really rise from the dead, then we are doomed, and fools for believing in Him. But thanks be to God we have the witness of the Apostles who have testified to seeing the resurrected Christ, each dying a martyr in testimony that He is Risen. Alleluia!