Does it feel like it's been a while since we celebrated Easter? In 2020, the world was on shutdown due to the global pandemic when Easter rolled around last April 21. This year, we get to celebrate Easter in person (see article below), although here in 2021, the date falls two weeks earlier on Sunday, April 4. It started me thinking about the dates of Easter, so I did a little research that I wanted to share with you.
Easter is generally set as the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs after the vernal equinox (think the beginning of spring). The precise date of Easter -- when Jesus was resurrected from the tomb -- is not known. In 325, the First Council of Nicaea convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine decided that Easter would be celebrated on the same Sunday throughout the church. At that time, the world used the Julian calendar put in place by Julius Caesar. The council constructed special tables to compute the date so that Easter could be determined indefinitely in advance.
Then, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII completed a reconstruction of the Julian calendar -- and produced new Easter tabulations. By the 1700s, most of western Europe had adopted the Gregorian calendar -- and today, of course, it is the standard international calendar for civil use. Many Eastern Orthodox churches, however, still determine Easter based on the Julian calendar (one major difference being the leap year rule). So in some Eastern churches, Easter can be celebrated as late as May.
So, in the Western Church, what is the earliest Easter can occur? That would be on March 22, which has not happened since 1818 and won't happen again until 2285 -- so most of us won't see that one. But I recall that in 2008, Easter fell on March 23. The last time Easter fell on its latest possible date, April 25, was in 1945, and it won't happen again until 2038 -- some of our Imagine Kids may be on the Leadership Team by that time.
So we will gather in just a few days to celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 4. Next year it will be on April 17, and in 2023, Easter will fall on April 9. It will be early again in 2024 when we celebrate Easter on March 31, and then much later in 2025 when Easter will be observed on April 20. So, mark your calendars!
In the name of the One who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Bruce Jones, Pastor and Co-Creator,
Imagine Church of the Carolinas