Happy Easter

March 31, 2013

I have not written anything on this blog for a long time; indeed, some readers (if this blog still has readers) may wonder to find me still among the living. But I would like, first, to wish those who celebrated today Christ’s resurrection a Happy Easter. For myself, due to an unusually long gap this year between the dates of Orthodox Easter (or Pascha, if you prefer*) on the one hand and Catholic and Protestant Easter on the other, I shall not be celebrating the paschal feast until May 5th, along with the rest of the Orthodox world. (This discrepancy is rooted in a difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars; more precisely, it arises from the fact that the Orthodox churches, or most of them, use the date of the vernal equinox on the Julian calendar — March 21st Julian = April 3rd Gregorian — to calculate the feast day, even though this date now falls 13 or 14 days later than the actual, astronomical vernal equinox. The Orthodox calculation of Easter — first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox — also requires that the feast come after Passover: that is, after the whole seven days of that feast are concluded. But there are so many minutiae involved in the calculation of Easter that even the above description is doubtless only partially complete; for instance, there is a full moon this year on April 25th, so why isn’t Orthodox Easter celebrated on the Sunday immediately following this, April 28th? I don’t know, and I despair of knowing.) Most Orthodox I speak with feel the discrepancy between Easter dates is silly and scandalous, and wish that a common date could be arrived at. It won’t be, mainly because the bishops know that any further changes to the calendar would only exacerbate existing divisions amongst the Orthodox — it would further aggravate and complicate the New Calendar / Old Calendar split that already plagues us.

The month of March 2013 has been a bitter one for me and my family. My sister died on March 6th, a cousin’s wife drowned on March 12th, an uncle died today of old age. My address list is slowly being transformed into a necrology, as I write the dates of death next to the names of the people I know. My sister, Ann Gilbert Ortiz, would have been 60 years old in May; she died of cancer, which she had fought for some twenty years. She was a gentle, decent person, loving towards her family, kind to friends and strangers. Human beings are unique and irreplaceable. I console myself sometimes with the thought that, if God took my sister away at this time, it was perhaps because there are miseries in store that he didn’t want her to have to see. I’m glad that my mother didn’t have to witness 9/11 and all the hysteria that followed it.

I like Pope Francis. I particularly like his economics. As for those who grumble because he does not countenance blessing homosexual unions as holy matrimony, well, neither does the New Testament (see Romans ch. 1, if you are in any doubt concerning this). He is simply doing his job, which is to defend the moral and doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church.

I suppose I have said enough. Again, Happy Easter.

*Some Orthodox boldly assert that “we don’t celebrate Easter — we celebrate Pascha.” See, for instance, an article from the Orthodox Information Center — which also makes the ingenious excuse for ignoring the astronomical date of the vernal equinox, that to observe it would require that the feast be celebrated on different dates in the northern and southern hemispheres. As though the fathers of the Nicene Council, when they laid down canons for a common celebration for the paschal feast, and tied it to the date of the vernal equinox, left it equivocal which hemisphere’s vernal equinox they meant — or else did not mean to speak of the astronomical vernal equinox, but instead meant to fix a particular date on the Julian calendar in perpetuum, however far that calendar might diverge from astronomical reality. Thus, we “observe days, and months, and times, and years” (Gal 4:10). And we are proud of this, as it shows us how deeply spiritual we are.

8 Responses to “Happy Easter”

  1. bedwere Says:

    Thank you for your wishes! I’m sorry to hear about all your crosses. I said an Ave Maria for you.
    As for economics, I’m afraid that the Pope’s good intentions are not enough: the free market is the best option for the poor I recommend you read this interview with the late Fr. Sadowsky.


  2. JessicaHof Says:

    I am sorry to hear about the necrology – my prayers are with them – and with you. Nice to see you here again :) x

  3. barbdominey Says:

    Sending you my heartfelt sympathy, and saying a prayer for you.

    Barb Rolsing Dominey

  4. Joseph Says:

    You still have readers. Thanks for posting!

  5. Vito Says:

    Peter, I understand what you are experiencing. Wishing you many good things on this day commemorating St. Francis of Paola–the great miracle worker. Vito

  6. Dr. Gilbert,

    I am sorry to hear of your losses. Memory eternal to all!

    Wanted to make contact with you about a writing opportunity. Please shoot me an email so we can discuss!


  7. arimathean Says:

    I discuss the dating of Easter in detail in this post: http://2natures.blogspot.com/2008/04/dating-easter.html

    There actually is no rule that Pascha must fall after Passover (at least according to the modern dating of Passover) – that is a popular, widely repeated error among the Orthodox.

    The bit you are missing in the Orthodox dating of Pascha is that our lunar tables differ from the Western lunar tables and from astronomical reality. Our virtual full moon falls three to five days after the astronomical full moon. That is why we sometimes celebrate Pascha on the same day as the Catholics and sometimes a week later. And why, when we have to wait for the next full moon, it is sometimes four weeks and sometimes five weeks later.

  8. bekkos Says:

    Thanks, arimathean! Your article goes a long way towards relieving my despair over ever understanding the reasons for the paschal-date discrepancy. Also, I am glad to be corrected on the matter of the necessity of Orthodox Easter following Passover; this does sound like a folk explanation, without basis in canon law.

    I hope that the bishops follow the advice of the Orthodox Theological Society in America, and start dating Easter on the basis of actual astronomical observation, in accordance with the Aleppo Agreement. As mentioned above in my post, I have little confidence that they will do so. Nevertheless, God sometimes persuades even bishops to do the right thing, so there is hope.

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