Why Do the Orthodox Sometimes Celebrate Pascha (Easter) on a Different Day from Roman Catholics?

by Fr. Basil Biberdorf

Sigh. It’s time for that annual round of ABSOLUTELY WRONG “Why Orthodox Pascha [Easter] doesn’t line up with Western Easter every year” articles.

It’s very simple. The basic principle is: Pascha happens the first Sunday following the first full moon following the vernal (spring) equinox, which is assumed as the invariant date of March 21. This was established by the First Ecumenical Council, held in Nicaea in AD 325.

The differences arise because:

1. The Orthodox use March 21 on the Julian (Old) Calendar, which differs by some 13 days from the Gregorian (New) Calendar. If a full moon occurs in this interval, the Paschal dates will be off by quite a bit.

2. The full moon is determined not by observation, but according to tables that say when it is according to the year in a cycle. The Orthodox have a different table than the Roman Catholics (and, consequently, the Western Protestants).

The differences have nothing to do with observing Pascha after Passover. The first Nicaean Council explicitly de-linked Pascha from Passover, which, due to Jewish rabbinical decisions could move from year to year. The Council wanted to free the Christian Church from this variability.


RELATED  On the Religious Opinions of the Unconverted
About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
Blog; Facebook;Twitter