Reform of the date of Easter

Reform of the date of Easter

Reform of the date of Easter has been proposed several times because the current system for determining the date of Easter is seen as presenting two significant problems:

  1. Its date varies from year to year (by the Western system of calculation, it can fall on any of 35 different dates of the Gregorian calendar). While many Christians do not consider this to be a problem, it can cause frequent difficulties of co-ordination with civil calendars, for example academic terms. Many countries can have public holidays around Easter weekend.
  2. The Eastern and Western Christian churches calculate Pascha using two different calendars (Julian and Gregorian, respectively); hence in most years Easter is celebrated on a different date in the East and the West.
Dates for Easter
In Gregorian dates
Year Western Eastern
1982 April 11 April 18
1983 April 3 May 8
1984 April 22
1985 April 7 April 14
1986 March 30 May 4
1987 April 19
1988 April 3 April 10
1989 March 26 April 30
1990 April 15
1991 March 31 April 7
1992 April 19 April 26
1993 April 11 April 18
1994 April 3 May 1
1995 April 16 April 23
1996 April 7 April 14
1997 March 30 April 27
1998 April 12 April 19
1999 April 4 April 11
2000 April 23 April 30
2001 April 15
2002 March 31 May 5
2003 April 20 April 27
2004 April 11
2005 March 27 May 1
2006 April 16 April 23
2007 April 8
2008 March 23 April 27
2009 April 12 April 19
2010 April 4
2011 April 24
2012 April 8 April 15
2013 March 31 May 5
2014 April 20
2015 April 5 April 12
2016 March 27 May 1
2017 April 16
2018 April 1 April 8
2019 April 21 April 28
2020 April 12 April 19
2021 April 4 May 2
2022 April 17 April 24


Fixed date

It has been proposed that the first problem could be resolved by making Easter occur on a fixed date every year, or alternatively on a Sunday within a fixed range of seven dates.[1] While tying it to one fixed date would serve to underline the belief that Easter commemorates an actual historical event, without an accompanying calendar reform it would also break the tradition of Easter always being on a Sunday, established since the 2nd century AD and by now deeply embedded in the liturgical practice and theological understanding of almost all Christian denominations.

The two most widespread proposals for fixing the date of Easter would set it on either the second Sunday in April (8 to 14), or the Sunday after the second Saturday in April (9 to 15). In both schemes, account has been taken of the fact that—in spite of the many difficulties in establishing the dates of the historical events involved—many scholars attribute a high degree of probability to Friday April 7, 30, as the date of the crucifixion of Jesus, which would make April 9 the date of the Resurrection. Many churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, have stated that they have no objection in principle to fixing the date of Easter in this way, but no serious discussions have yet taken place on implementing such a change.

In the late 1920s and 1930s, this idea gained some momentum (along with other calendar reform proposals, such as the World Calendar), and in 1928 a law was passed in the United Kingdom authorising an Order in Council which would fix the date of Easter in that country as the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April.[2] However, this was never implemented. In 1977, some Eastern Orthodox representatives objected to separating the date of Easter from lunar phases.[3]

Unified date

Proposals to resolve the second problem have made greater progress, but they are yet to be adopted.

1923 attempt

An astronomical rule for Easter was proposed by the 1923 synod that also proposed the Revised Julian calendar: Easter was to be the Sunday after the midnight-to-midnight day at the meridian of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (35°13'47.2"E or UT+2h20m55s for the small dome) during which the first full moon after the vernal equinox occurs.[4][5] Although the instant of the full moon must occur after the instant of the vernal equinox, it may occur on the same day. If the full moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter is the following Sunday. This proposed astronomical rule was rejected by all Orthodox churches and was never considered by any Western church.

1997 attempt

The World Council of Churches proposed a reform of the method of determining the date of Easter at a summit in Aleppo, Syria, in 1997[6]: Easter would be defined as the first Sunday following the first astronomical full moon following the astronomical vernal equinox, as determined from the meridian of Jerusalem. The reform would have been implemented starting in 2001, since in that year the Eastern and Western dates of Easter would coincide.

This reform has not been implemented. It would have relied mainly on the co-operation of the Eastern Orthodox Church, since the date of Pascha (Easter) would change for them immediately; whereas for the Western churches the new system would not differ from that currently in use until 2019. However, Eastern Orthodox support was not forthcoming, and the reform failed. The much greater impact that this reform would have had on the Eastern churches in comparison with those of the West led some Orthodox to suspect that the WCC's decision was an attempt by the West to impose its viewpoint unilaterally on the rest of the world under the guise of ecumenism.

2008–2009 attempt

In 2008 and 2009, there was a new attempt to reach a consensus on a unified date on the part of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders.[7][8] This effort largely relies on earlier work carried out during the 1997 Aleppo conference.[9][10] It was organized by academics working at the Institute of ecumenical studies of Lviv University.[11][12]

Part of this attempt was reportedly influenced by ecumenical efforts in Syria and Lebanon, where the Greek-Melkite Church has played an important role in improving ties with the Orthodox.[13][14] There is also a series of apparition phenomena known as Our Lady of Soufanieh that has urged for a common date of Easter.[15]

See also


  1. ^ The Pepuzites, a 5th-century sect, celebrated Easter on the Sunday following April 6. Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History 7.18. The April 6 date was apparently arrived at because it was equivalent to the 14th of the month of Artemisios in an earlier calendar used in the area, hence, the 14th of the first month of spring. Thomas J. Talley, "Afterthoughts on The Origins of the Liturgical Year", in Sean Gallagher et. al. Eds., Western Plainchantin the First Millennium, Ashgate, Aldershot, 2003, pp. 1-10.
  2. ^ Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, by E.G. Richards (1998), p. 122 ISBN 0-19-286205-7
  3. ^ Ukrainian Catholic University Organizes Seminar on Easter Date
  4. ^ M. Milankovitch, "Das Ende des julianischen Kalenders und der neue Kalender der orientalischen Kirchen", Astronomische Nachrichten 220 (1924) 379–384.
  5. ^ Miriam Nancy Shields, "The new calendar of the Eastern churches", Popular Astronomy 32 (1924) 407–411 (page 411). This is a translation of M. Milankovitch, "The end of the Julian calendar and the new calendar of the Eastern churches", Astronomische Nachrichten No. 5279 (1924).
  6. ^ World Council of Churches/Middle East Council of Churches Consultation Aleppo, Syria March 5 - 10, 1997
  7. ^ New attempt to achieve a common date for Easter
  8. ^ Hope for a common date for Easter affirmed again
  9. ^ Ecumenical Christians Hope for Common Easter Date After 2009
  10. ^ Ukrainian Catholic University Organizes Seminar on Easter Date
  11. ^ Hopes rise for East-West common Easter
  12. ^ A common date for Easter is possible
  13. ^ 1982 petition for a unified Easter date
  14. ^ Christians eye common date for Easter
  15. ^ Petition for a Common date of Easter

External links

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