Unravelling Easter Complications

| April 9, 2015

Unlike most holidays in Botswana, Easter remains the only off-work period where families seldom schedule their wedding ceremonies.

Although travel is the obvious defining feature during the holiday, most people are usually on church pilgrimages to meet and pray with fellow believers. Rarely does one see the hysteria that often engulf the independence holidays or festive season.

If anything, part time pastoral farmers would visit their cattle posts for repose and energy rejuvenation. Interestingly, this is also the season when livestock is in most times safe from slaughtering, probably because there is no reason for jubilation.

As people grow both in faith and other facets of life, so does Easter take many shapes and forms. For instance, Catholic youth from Gaborone West have now made Good Friday a ‘Save the Date’ event through their dramatisation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Kgale siding.

The drama was staged at Kgale Siding on Good Friday, and organisers say, has grown in leaps and bounds and has in the process attracted Christians of all denominations, a sign that the church is one united body.

In a post drama interview, Bishop Valentine Seane of the Diocese of Gaborone described the dramatisation as breathing life into the scriptures and thus bringing the gospel as close to reality as possible.

“It is so humbling to see the youth play a leading role in evangelising humanity instead of taking a back seat in their own spiritual lives,” he said.

The organisers of the event want to grow it into a huge pilgrimage that will eventually lessen the distance of travel to South Africa and ultimately reduce the rate of road accidents.

Much as Gaborone is a diamond city, they said, it may as well be an Easter pilgrimage hub.

And interestingly, many people across the world, Christians and non-followers of Christ alike, still wonder what determines the dates of Easter. Understanding the formula is so complicated because it seldom occurs on a similar date for consecutive years.

For instance, last year Easter fell on April 20 while this year it was on April 5 . Next year it comes early on March 27, and will jump to April 16 in 2017.

At least all scholars agree that Easter has always been a moveable feast that occurs on a Sunday, a day universally believed to have been the day of Christ resurrection.

One Christian academic Scott Richert posits that on the Gregorian calendar (the one that we use), Easter is the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the first full moon on or after March 21.

As a result Easter would always fall between March 22 and April 25. Research shows that at one point an agreement was reached by leaders of the church through a summit called the Council of Nicaea (AD 325).

The then Roman Emperor Constantine convened a council of Christian bishops in Nicaea to harmonise several issues dominant in Christianity. Besides establishing uniform observance of the date of Easter, the Council also settled the issue of the nature of the son of God and his relationship with God the father.

Richert, also Christianity expert, says the Council set the date of Easter as the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the vernal (spring) equinox.

It was apparently set around the paschal full moon because that was the date of Passover in the Jewish calendar, and the Last Supper (Holy Thursday) occurred on the Passover.

Therefore, Easter was the Sunday after Passover.

“The church does not use the exact date of the paschal full moon but an approximation, because the paschal full moon can fall on different days in different time zones, which would mean that the date of Easter would be different depending on which time zone you live in,” Richert writes in an academic journal.

For calculation purposes, the full moon is always set at the 14th day of the lunar month (the lunar month begins with the new moon). Likewise, the Church sets the date of the vernal equinox at March 21, even though it can occur on March 20.

Both approximations allow the Church to set a universal date for Easter. Further reading of scholars on Easter complications shows that there have been several proposed reforms for the Easter date.

In 1997 for instance, the World Council of Churches proposed a reform of the Easter calculation to replace an equation-based method of calculating Easter with direct aomical observation.

Such a move, experts say, would have solved the Easter date difference between churches that observe the Gregorian calendar and those that observe the Julian calendar.

The reform was proposed to be implemented in 2001, but it is not yet adopted.

Another example of a proposed reform occurred in the United Kingdom, where the Easter Act 1928 was established to allow the Easter date to be fixed as the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. However, this law was not implemented, although it remains on the UK Statute Law Database.

Source : BOPA

Source : Botswana Daily News

Category: General

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