Reflecting on Easter

by Roy Hendrix

The approaching Easter season gives pause to think about some of the many issues - some spiritual and some physical - surrounding this great Christian celebration. There are numerous spiritual insights to be gained by studying the New Testament story of the Resurrection. Easter's history, like the very moveable date of Easter, is also interesting and worth a look here.

Resurrection Faith

Mark 16: 1—8

Resurrection Faith - faith that the Resurrection, as described in the Bible, happened. It requires an extra dimension to that required by people who lived by the Old Testament laws. Now - according to this new covenant and as described in the New Testament, we have to have belief and faith in other supernatural events - the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus. And to help us in this belief, Jesus spent 40 days on earth in this resurrected state - then was replaced on earth by the Holy Spirit. Luke sums it up in Acts 1: 3—4:

"After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."

Easter and Passover

Many Christians today associate Easter with the Jewish celebration of Passover. This is probably because both are held in the Spring season of the year and Passover, a much older observance than Easter, was being celebrated in Jerusalem during the period of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.

But, of course, Easter is a Christian celebration of Jesus' Resurrection and Passover is a Jewish celebration of the Jews' escape from the Egyptians hundreds of years before the time of Jesus Christ. In 2018, Passover, which is tied to the Jewish calendar, occurs from March 30 — April 7. Easter Sunday occurs on April 1 - this year falling within the time span of Passover. But that's not always the case, since the date of Easter is calculated completely independently of the Jewish calendar.

The Nicaean Council

The first Council of Nicaea was set up by Rome's first Christian Emperor, Constantine, in 325 AD. Its main accomplishments include construction of the first part of the Nicene Creed and establishing the uniform observance of the date of Easter. The computation of the date of Easter was made independent of the Jewish calendar and details of this computation would evolve down through the ages.

When Then is Easter?

Easter Sunday in 2018 is April 1 - April Fool's Day this year. In our Western Christianity, Easter always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 inclusive. It falls on the Sunday after the first full moon that occurs after the Vernal Equinox (taken to be March 21).

In the year of 1818 the relevant full moon fell on Saturday March 21 (the equinox). Therefore, the following day, March 22, was Easter. It will not fall that early again until the year of 2285 - a span of 467 years. Another unusual occurrence of Easter, but not quite as early, was 2008's Easter - March 23. Before then, it last occurred that early in 1913, and will occur again in 2160, 95-year and 152-year gaps, respectively. Easter has been called a Moveable Feast because it appears on a different date in different years.

Related Secular Activities

Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, and Easter parades are just a few of several secular items and activities included in Easter celebrations around the world. In some countries, as Easter is always a Sunday, Easter Monday is a public holiday. In the US, since Easter is a Sunday and already a non-working day, it has not been designated as a federal or state holiday. Good Friday is observed as a national holiday in several countries and in several states in the US. Some financial institutions, stock markets, and public schools are closed on Good Friday in the US.

Easter is the cornerstone of Christianity.