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A Different Easter Date: The Cause Continues
In 2016, Justin Portal Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and, as such, the head of the Anglican church, predicted Easter will soon be standardized between the Christian religions. "We had warned the government that this was coming up. I would expect it to happen between five and 10 years' time,” Welby said as quoted by The London Telegraph.
"I wouldn't expect it earlier than that not least because most people have probably printed their calendars for the next five years,” he continued. "School holidays and so on are all fixed – it affects almost everything you do in the spring and summer. I would love to see it before I retire."
On this the week of another Easter, it can be reported that although two years have passed since Welby’s predication the change seems no closer to happening although it has been endorsed by Christendom’s most influential figure, Pope Francis.
For years there have been discussions to standardize the date of Easter. For centuries the Easter date has been moved around by the various Catholic sects such as the Catholic, Coptic, Orthodox, each with a convincing argument why their way is right. Different denominations celebrate Easter on different Sundays. Francis even applied a rare bit of papal wit to the situation by saying, “When did your Christ rise from the dead? My Christ rose today, and yours next week.”
How the situation got like this is complex and laced with the Byzantine rivalries of the ancient- European/Asian world with overtones of reference to the Justinian and Gregorian Calendars and the Council of Nicea- for starters. From our perspective we don't care how the situation arose – it is time for history to move on. Nor do we have a candidate for what the standardized date should be. We note however that most of the discussion seems to suggest mid-April; a date that would best embrace the rival dates. That sounds good to us. One suggestion is that Easter would always be on the second Sunday in April. (This year it would be on April 8 instead of the pre-ordained April 1.)
In New Orleans the issues is especially important. Seldom have the ponderings at the Vatican had much impact on the business of Rex and Zulu, but the change could be good for business locally.
What is good for Easter, and for Mardi Gras, is that the timeframe would be consistent. The actual dates would still shift each year but by no more than a week.
Such a move would justify dusting off the Halleluiah Chorus. For the churches it would be an act of unity; sects separated by centuries celebrating their most spiritual date together. For the worshipper, a core standardized dated would give more legitimacy to the Easter story placing it into a more consistent time frame.
And down in New Orleans, the move would strengthen Carnival by making it more preparable within a tighter time period. No longer would captains and programmers be challenged by the occasional early Mardi Gras. Carnival season would still start on Twelfth Night, Jan. 6, but now the length of the season would be consistent. For king cake bakers and hotel bookers that’s good news.
On matters of Carnival “tradition” is always part of the debate. Truth is there is nothing spiritual about the current lunar-based system for determining the dates. Nowhere does the Bible speak of the resurrection as being “on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal equinox.” Linking events to to an astronomical phenomenon is a pagan invention going back to when people had little to do at night than study the sky.
We live in a more logical world.
Pope Francis’s endorsement is huge if this change is to happen. Yet Welby acknowledges that sometimes change moves painfully slow. To the laughter of the gathered press he added,“I think the first attempt to do this was in the 10th century."
We can at least pray for wisdom, and speed, in high places.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.