Skip to main content

Why Easter is a moveable feast- how that changing date is determined

Jesus is the Paschal Lamb
Jesus is the Paschal Lambgoogle images

Do you know how  the time for Easter is determined?

It is often called a moveable feast  because it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar and can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25, the first Sunday after the full moon.This is for Western Christianity. Eastern Christianity determines the dates of Easter from the Julian calendar so their celebration of Easter varies from April 4 to May 8. As the most important event in the Christian liturgical year, it celebrates Jesus' resurrection from the dead the third day after his crucifixion.

The Easter season, also called Eastertide, used to last forty days after the Resurrection until the Ascension, but now lasts fifty days until Pentecost. Easter also signals the end of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and repentance.

Because of its symbolism and  it's position on the calendar, the Jewish Passover is also linked to Easter. The Passover and Exodus from Egypt in the Old Testament  through to  the Last Supperin the New when Jesus gave the Passover meal a fresh significance as he identified the loaf of bread and cup of wine as symbols of his body and blood to be sacrificed.

"For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed" states 1 Corinthians 5:7. Jesus is the Pascal Lamb. One reading of the Gospel of John is that Jesus as the Passover Lamb, was crucified at approximately the same time as the Passover lambs were slain in the Temple, on the afternoon of Nisan 13. However, this interpretation is  inconsistent with the Synoptic Gospels.

The term "Quatodeciman" refers to the tradition of celebrating Pascha or Easter on Nisan 14 of the Hebrew calendar,"the Lord's passover" (Leviticus 23:5). But others wanted to celebrate Easter the following Sunday(the Sunday of Unleavened Bread).

By the end of the third century many Christians grew tired of consulting with the Jewish community to determine when Nisan fell and the setting of the date for Easter became a matter of contention. Since the fourth century Easter has been obeserved on the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the day of the vernal equinox.  

Comments