Seldom have the ponderings at the Vatican had much impact on the rituals of Rex and Zulu, but if an idea, which Pope Francis supports, ever takes effect, it could be logically sound for Rome and good for business in New Orleans.
For years there have been discussions to standardize the date of Easter. Over 300 years the Easter date has been roughed up by the various Catholic sects, such as the Catholic, Coptic and Orthodox, each with a convincing argument why their way is right. Each year Easter is celebrated over 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 references 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’s 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 early to 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 have been on April 10 instead of the pre-ordained March 27. Ash Wednesday would have been Feb. 24; Mardi Gras, Feb. 23.)
What is good for Easter, and for Mardi Gras, is that the time frame 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 Hallelujah 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 easier to plan 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’s 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 an astronomical phenomenon is a pagan invention going back to when people had little more to do at night than study the sky.
We live in a more logical world, Pope Francis’ endorsement is huge if this change is to happen.
We can at least pray for wisdom in high places.