I read this article (“From Mount of Olives to Jerusalem, world’s Christians mark Jesus’ entry”) on CNS and it got me thinking…
Catholic Christians in the Holy Land have made the amazingly humble and gracious gesture of unity to their Eastern Christian counterparts: Catholics and Orthodox celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar:
Most of the Catholic communities in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus are preparing to celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week not these days but in the first week of May, according to the Julian Calendar followed by the Orthodox communities. The unification of the Easter dates in most of the area is an application of the directive issued on October 15, 2012 by the Assembly of ordinary Catholic bishops in Holy Land, where it was established that within two years all Catholics in the Diocese of Latin Rite and the various Eastern rites will celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar, coinciding with the Easter liturgies celebrated in the Orthodox churches.
The CNS article, however, describes activities in Jerusalem for Palm Sunday this past week, and while it acknowledges the decision of the Catholic bishops, they can’t really do anything about all the pilgrims who show up wanting to celebrate Western Easter in situ (so to speak).
Which seems to raise for me the really hairy problem that while we are celebrating Easter here this weekend, at the very place where the events we commemorate took place, they will still be at the start of Lent.
I know that the issue of the divided Easter date needs resolution. Personally, since we all agree on the “first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox” rule (which was, as I understand it, mandated at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea), I think we should all simply adopt the most accurate astronomical method of counting that date – with the proviso that we also follow the other old rule of never celebrating Easter before Passover.
According to, this FAQ sheet, the only difference this would produce to our current western Easter would take place in 2877. I know that the Greek Orthodox bishops decided to go down this root some time ago, but it is a decision that has yet to be implemented because of the issues it would cause in the Orthodox world – especially among the Russians.