As a child, it was always an odd thing for me to understand why it was that Easter Sunday was a moving target. I mean Christmas is always on December 25th. The Feast of the Epiphany is exactly twelve days later, hence following the 12 days of Christmas, on January 6th. Determining precisely when it is that Easter happens is a bit more intriguing.
Officially, Easter is determined by the phase of the Moon. More specifically; Easter Sunday is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full Moon that occurs on or just after the spring equinox. Try saying that five time really fast. This means that this year the Spring Equinox was on March 20th and the first full Moon after that will be Saturday, April 16th. So Easter Sunday this year will be on April 17th.
The thing is, so much of the Church’s liturgical calendar is dependent on Easter. For instance, the Season of Lent is 40 days long not counting the Sundays. We don’t count Sundays because they are all considered Feast days of our Lord. Therefore counting backwards from Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022, it means that Ash Wednesday was March 2nd of this year. You see, it all depends on Easter.
The same is true with the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost Day. Pentecost happens exactly 50 days after Easter Sunday, only in this case we do count the Sundays. So in 2022, Pentecost will be held on June 5th. Since the Ascension is always on a Thursday that falls ten days before Pentecost, this year the Feast of the Ascension will happen on May 26th. Here again, it all depends on Easter.
On one important level this all really makes good sense. As Christians, we are Easter people! Our entire faith experience is based upon Jesus triumphing over death and rising from the grave. Death no longer has dominion over us. We have been redeemed by the Blood Christ and allowed to stand before God. It all really does depend on our understanding of Easter.
During Holy Week we prepare for Easter Day. Palm Sunday is the week before Easter when Jesus enters into Jerusalem knowing he is certain to be arrested, tried and sentence to die. Maundy Thursday is the night when Jesus gathered with his disciples and instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion. At the end of the service on Maundy Thursday the church altar is stripped bare. The people all leave in silence.
At noon on Good Friday, we gather for a somber service of remembrance where we share communion from the reserved sacrament that was consecrated the night before. Then we relive the Stations of the Cross, and we trace the path that Jesus took on the way to his crucifixion.
The Great Vigil of Easter takes place on Saturday evening. It begins with the kindling of the new fire and the lighting of the Paschal Candle. The first half of the service takes place by candlelight symbolizing how the Light came into the world to overcome darkness. The Lord’s Resurrection is proclaimed and the Season of Easter officially begins at this service. The lights are raised, a joyful noise is made, followed by singing and celebrations that Christ has Risen from the dead. This is our story. This is who we are as Christians and people of God. It is important that we are clear about this. It is important that we understand why we gather and what it is that we believe.
COVID has severely impacted the last two years and our ability to celebrate our faith in the fullest possible way. This year we anticipate being able to gather without the limitations of the pandemic. This year we have a chance to fully immerse ourselves into the story of who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.
I hope you will share with us this spiritual journey in person. From Palm Sunday, through Maundy Thursday, through Good Friday and the Stations of the Cross, to the Great Vigil of Easter and finally to Easter Sunday, make the effort to come and take part. Everything we know and understand about the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ depends on how we experience Easter.