When is it, really? No, really? Really?

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To ask when is Easter Sunday might evoke ridicule because most would say it is Sunday coming, April 12. Others might wonder if it is a trick question.

However, it is a serious question that divides the Christian Church. There are a number of hard-to-resolve issues that have led to the situation in which different churches celebrate Christian festivals at different times in one year.

The birth of Jesus is celebrated at different times in the same year by different churches. In this part of the world, the Incarnation is commemorated on December 25.

Trying to determine exact dates is not very easy, and, perhaps, impossible in the case of the birth of Jesus. Furthermore, not knowing the exact date of Jesus' birth does not affect the reality of his birth or death. Additionally, it does not affect the belief that He was God appearing as flesh. Human beings change the meanings of dates and events to suit our purposes.

Similar problems surround the Easter Sunday celebration. There are years when Roman Catholics and Protestants and the churches in the Eastern Orthodox celebrate Easter on the same date in the same year.

Different calendars

It happened in 2001 and 2007. It will happen next year, 2011, 2014 and 2017, if the same policies remain regarding the calculations of Easter Sunday, based on the two oldest and major denomination blocs. In 2008, Easter was celebrated in some churches on March 23 and on April 27 in others.

And this year, while Catholic and Protestant churches will celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 12, the churches in the Eastern Orthodox will celebrate it the following week, April 19.

Reverend Neville Callam, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance and former Jamaican Baptist pastor, writing in the Adult Sunday School Learner Guide of the Caribbean Bible Lessons (2009), explains that the issue has to do with the different ways of understanding the Biblical Passover, the use of different calendars reflecting ways of measuring time and the lack of consensus over the meridian to be used for determining the date for Easter.

There have been attempts by the Eastern Orthodox and Western Church to resolve the problem of the celebration of the same Christian festivals on different days of the same year.

Proposal for resolution

According to Callam, the best proposal for resolving the conflict was developed by the Middle East Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. The proposal was developed because the different celebrations reflected poorly on the Christian church's credibility and effectiveness. It seems to counter the unity that is in Christ Jesus.

The proposal was that Easter should be calculated to fall on the Sunday following the first vernal full moon, thereby preserving the link between Easter and the Jewish Passover and also preserving the cosmic dimension of Easter. In addition, the meridian of Jerusalem, the place of Jesus' death and resurrection, was the point of reference for the calculation of the full moon following the March equinox.

Callam asks what is your church's attitude towards the separate dates for the celebration of the same Christian festival? It seems that most Jamaicans do not know about these differences and do not care whether Easter Sunday will be next Sunday or the following Sunday. It is now for the heads of denominations to get their acts together and agree on one date in the interest of Christian unity.

And, in the mean time, let us remember that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and hence he gives us hope of our resurrection.

Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church and author of 'Rebellion to Riot: The Church in Nation Building'. Feedback may be sent to columns@gleanerjm.com.

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This page contains a single entry by writch published on April 10, 2009 10:40 AM.

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