Eastern and Western Dates for Easter

If you have friends who belong to one of the Eastern Orthodox Churches (Greek Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc) you will know that they usually celebrate Easter at a different time from us western Christians.
The reason for this disparity lies in the different calendars the Churches use. After the split between the eastern and western Churches in 1054, the two continued to celebrate Easter on the same date because both followed the Julian calendar.
This calendar, devised by Julius Caesar in 46BCE, was inexact in calculating the length of the year. Gregory XIII omitted ten days from the year 1582 to bring the calendar back into line with the astronomical cycle. He also put in place our current leap year rule so that the error would not reoccur. The Gregorian calendar gradually replaced the Julian calendar but certain parts of the Orthodox Church have not adopted it.
While both East and West calculate the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the northern Spring equinox, the equinox occurs on a different date in the two calendars which are currently about fourteen days apart. Hence for nearly 400 years the celebration of the resurrection has usually occurred on different dates for Christians of the East and West.
Once in a while, however, the dates co-incide and 2001, the first year of the new millennium, is one of those rare years in which all Christians celebrated Easter - and will therefore also celebrate the feast of Pentecost - on the same day.
At a service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Rome (the Week is held in January in the northern hemisphere) Pope John Paul II spoke of this year as being a “very promising one for us to bear witness together that Christ is the way, and the truth, and the life”.
This year does indeed offer a rare opportunity for Christians to profess together the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit to make us children of the one heavenly Father.
To mark the occasion, a task group from Queensland Churches Together offers this prayer for all Churches to use during Easter Season celebrations.
Lord of Heaven and Earth,we long to see your reign of peace in every place.
Thank you for the gift of baptism,in which there is neither Jew or Greek,male of female, slave or free.
When we refuse to acknowledge your gracein others, forgive us.
When we are divided one from anotherturn our hearts and heal us.
Send us into the world you loveto witness to your love and justice.Make us living signs of your kingdom,in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Elizabeth Harrington