Thursday, March 31, 2016

I lost flag referendum, why not have a go at losing debate on fixing date of Easter?

Ian Paul has an excellent post on Fixing the Date of Easter.

I think it should be fixed, but on this proviso, that fixing the date of Easter is part of a uniting of all Christian traditions in sharing one date for Easter. Put in the negative, I don't agree with fixing the date of Easter if it introduces a further division within global Christianity. Fix to unite and unite to fix!

And I agree with Ian, if we (Westerners, at least) do not fix it we stand more chance of moving out of sync with our culture than if we persist in asking our culture to adapt to our (interesting, actually out of sorts with other Christians and with Jews) lunatic calculations. Did I say "lunatic"? You know I know it is more lunarly and solarly complicated than that!

However I am concerned about my recent history of backing losing causes (cf. NZ flag) :)

What do you think?

(Incidentally, Ian Paul cites an opponent of fixing, Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, for whom one argument is mentioned thus:

"Holtam comments:
It seems to me a curiously unexamined piece of cultural accommodation that would separate the timing of Easter from Passover and detach us from our Jewish roots."

Now what other issue could there possibly be in the life of our Communion in which some Anglicans are concerned about detaching ourselves from our Jewish roots. Oh, wait, on THAT issue, +Nick Holtam is well known as supporting detaching ourselves from our Jewish foundations. However I will only take comments on this post which comment on the date of Easter)


Andrei said...

I don't agree with fixing the date of Easter if it introduces a further division within global Christianity.

Well then you don't agree with fixing the date of Easter because it would cause even more divisions

Orthodox Easter is May 1st this year and if the Western Church cannot align itself with the Eastern Church on this....

And if you think Old Calendar Christians who wont accept the Pope's Calendar will accept a change driven by Heathen Secularists in the EU to make public holidays conform to their bureaucratic rituals.....

Peter Carrell said...

No, Andrei, if it is going to be fixed, it will be fixed by the initiative of the leaders of all the churches.

Jean said...

If it aint broke don't fix it?

Unless there is currently significant tension between churches because they celebrate Easter at different times I don't see a huge need to create a fixed date. It seems the council of Nicea did the best they could with what they had to form a pattern for the dates of celebrating our Easter holidays.

Personally I like the change, every year it's like 'oh I wonder when Easter is this year'. Alongside appreciating that although we may not entirely be in sync with the passover the attempt has been made within confines to get as close as possible. The passover date may not be specifically preached about but holding a connection even if a loose one between this part of God's ongoing story with his people in the past and today is kinda nice. A bit like visits from the Royal Family.

School and business here have to adjust for certain public holidays falling on different weeks/days such as Waitangi Day and Queen's Birthday. Admittedly Easter has one more day but ... big deal?

Perhaps it would be more exciting to launch a campaign to change Christmas to closerr to the date Jesus was born? What is that?

Peter Carrell said...

It is broke, Jean.
The differences in the dates for Easter between Christians are differences which go back a long way.
Overcoming those differences re dates would be a significant step towards engaging in other issues which divide us.
The Lord prayed that we might be one ...!

Andrei said...

The rules for calculating the date of Easter were decided at the Council of Nicaea as I'm sure you know Peter

And over ruling the Fathers of that council to better align with secular culture will never happen and any "Church Leader" who did so would face schism in his flock

I saw this floated as a trial balloon by the Archbishop of Canterbury a few weeks ago and even he didn't sound too optimistic though the press secular to the core went running with it.

Despite what you might read the Coptic Pope in Alexandria will never go with it - there would be riots if he did and he would be deposed

And then there is this - food for thought? What do you make of this from the Sunday before last?

Various Governments might pass laws fixing the date of the Easter Holidays, I can see that happening for what its worth - and they are sure to allow trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, thus reducing the significance of these days to days off with pay for Office Workers and penalty rates for those who man/woman the tills.

But the Faithful will carry on as always

Andrei said...

I should add that title is not right - ignore it

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
It sounds like ++Justin has spoken too quickly (or too late!).
But I believe in miracles.

Anonymous said...

Simply, no.

The real question is that of the paradigm for the Churches response to the loss of the secular masses. Personally, apart from obvious missionary activity, I favour freedom from secular reflexes wherever the inner life of the Church is concerned, especially where either the practise of the mass of the faithful, or the heritage of the first millennium is involved. Indeed few things would improve the celebration of a transit from death to life more than for it to be just a little more inconvenient (eg you have to look at calendar to know when to do it; you have to travel to your cathedral; you have to fast).

If Rome and Constantinople want to revisit the canons of Nicaea, then as a courtesy we should by all means do so. Otherwise, if and when a real pastoral problem emerges, then it should be met by a narrowly-tailored remedy that is local, provisional, temporary, and eventually abandoned and forgotten.

Beware of Fidgets.

Bowman Walton

Ian Paul said...

Thanks for the link Peter. I hope people here will go and read through the issues I highlight; the more I wrote, the more compelling I felt the case was.

The mathematical issue that people *must* get their head around is the conflict between different calendrial elements:

. the solar year of 365.25 days
. the lunar month of 29.5 days
. the week of 7 days.

None of these fits into the others neatly, and in our culture we (understandably) prioritise the solar. Who celebrates their birthday on the same day of the week or phase of the moon as the original?

There is a good theological argument too: if the First Covenant is organised by the reflected glory of the moon, should not we with unveiled faces be led by the sun and the solar calendar?

Anonymous said...

Postscript-- Some readers may object to my comment on the grounds that fitting the Church's inner life to the secularised masses who disbelieve in that life may be not a Fidget, but a Flail, or even a Cower. That is, departing from the Nicene canons to line up Easter with secular holidays in England could be motivated from a few different subjective states--

Let's-do-it-just-because-we-can (a solution looking for a problem, a Fidget).

It-may-not-make-sense-but-we-must-try-something (desperation demanding to feel that it is doing something, even if that something will not solve the problem or relieve the desperation, a Flail).

If-we-don't-do-it-people-will-think-we-are-odd (shame at eccentricity that seeks safety for Christian eccentricity in the tacit approval of one's society, a Cower).

Such objectors, I now see, would be right. To free the mind from a bad idea, it is generally important to know which stratagem of Satan is motivating it. As all shrinking organisations hear earfuls of bad ideas about what to do about that, so too will Anglican churches in Western societies. Most of these bad ideas will be Fidgets, Flails, and Cowers that originate in Satan's tactical use of Pride, Despair, and Shame. And meddling with the date of Easter could appear to be any of the three.

Merely in self-defense I should note that this proposal to recalculate the date of Easter from evangelical who studied maths does have two salient markers of a Fidget. First, déformation professionnelle: to put it gently, others might not find the satisfaction of a successful calculation to be so much greater than the satisfaction of continuing tradition. Second, transgression: Anglican Fidgets usually have a double frisson of transgression because they not only change something-- how very forward-looking of us!-- but, importantly, something that the other party in the Communion actually cares more about. Just as liberal Fidgets will usually be about changing doctrine or ignoring scripture about which they care little anyway, so it is almost predictable that an evangelical Fidget will be about the most solemn liturgy of the year. Put another way, if this idea had come from the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, it would still be a bad one, but it would probably not have been a Fidget.

Fidgets, Flails, and Cowers-- avoid these three. But the worst of these is a Cower.

Bowman Walton

Andrew Reid said...

Allow me to provide a perspective from the Middle East, where having multiple Easter dates affects our Christian witness and ecumenical relationships. Despite their internal divisions, our Muslim neighbours are able to celebrate their major feasts at the same time - give or take a day based on sightings of the moon! The different Easter (and Christmas) dates for different Christian traditions is an obstacle - not the only nor the biggest obstacle - in the way of common witness. It is also a speck in the eye when it comes to ecumenical relations - not the major issue but an issue in the way of closer fellowship.
This year, Eastern and Western Easters are nearly a month apart, which makes us look silly rather than united. This is amplified in places like Lebanon and Israel/Palestine, where there are significant Orthodox and non-Orthodox communities.
I am delighted to tell you that the Diocese of Egypt & North Africa has aligned itself with Orthodox Easter this year as a sign of our fellowship. I am also pleased that there are serious discussions between heads of churches to achieve a permanent resolution.

Peter Carrell said...

A few notes from me:
- Nicea canons all very well, but we know more about calendrical calculation now than then;
- Unity, as Andrew points out, is a missional issue, not only an ecclesiastical one;
- A missing point in the "secular" v "church" (i.e. cultural capitulation) concern is that most clergy would prefer a week or two more to prepare for and lead Lenten, Holy Week and Easter services than any March date for Easter gives. (Fixing to early/mid April happens to suit some countries "Easter" school holidays; but fixing to early/mid April would be a good pastoral idea irrespective of secular school holidays).

Jean said...

As it IS a problem, as pointed out by Peter and illustrated in a practical way by Andrew, creating difficulties for or between churches, then continuing the attempt to align the East and West ways for setting Easter is a worthy endeavour. It wouldn't necessarily involve a fixed date though.

I found this proposal which seems to be based on common sense. It uses the Eastern method for calculating a full moon from Jerusalem while employing modern means to be able to predict it accurately enough to fit into a Western cultural setting.

"A meeting organized by the Council of World Churches (in Aleppo, Syria, March 5–10, 1997) proposed a solution thought to be favorable to both East and West: both methods of calculating the equinox and the paschal full moon would be replaced with the most advanced astronomically accurate calculations available, using the meridian of Jerusalem as the point of measure. Since that meeting, however, no further progress has been made and the problem remains."

Great news Andrew regarding your Diocese's decision.

Andrei said...

"- Nicea canons all very well, but we know more about calendrical calculation now than then;"

Not so Peter - what you mean is that in the 21st century we can calculate the average length of the Tropical Year with greater precision than the ancients could

The date of the northern Hemisphere vernal equinox (fundamental in the Easter Date calculation) still will slip against the Gregorian Calendar albeit more slowly than its Julian predecessor - There is no calendar possible that could prevent this slippage without ad hoc adjustments

We actually have ad hoc leap seconds added to a day every now and then because the length of the day is imprecise (and variable but slowly lengthening)

Perhaps we should call the festival Pascha like everyone else rather than Easter and recognize that its time of celebration is based on a Lunar calendar rather than a solar one because the Jewish Passover from which it is derived is based on such a Calendar - Using Pascha as opposed to Easter recognizes this connection - whereas Easter is all about bunnies and Chocolate Eggs in our modern age

Peter Carrell said...

I would be happy, Andrei, if we changed "Easter" to "Pascha"!

Andrei said...

"I would be happy, Andrei, if we changed "Easter" to "Pascha"!"

Well there's your solution then Peter

(1) Drop " Easter" from your vocabulary and use Pascha

(2) Adopt the Julian Calendar aligning yourself with about half of the worlds Christians

(3) Thereby celebrating Easter (most years) and Christmas every year after the sillyness attached to them now is well and truly over

And the Church Festivities will be the only show in town when they are celebrated not competing with department store Santas (Christmas) and commercial radio promoted Easter Egg hunts Easter

A good plan? :)

Peter Carrell said...

A pretty good plan, Andrei, but not quite as good as my plan to fly the heads of all major churches to Theology House for a nice cup of our superb plunger coffee, exerting just the slightest bit of pressure on them to sign up to a fixed, common date of Pascha (and a few other revisions to the Nicean canons while we are about it). I can't say what that slight pressure will be, but let's just say that most major denominations have some nasty lurking scandals they would prefer not to read about in the Daily Mail!

Now those flights will cost a bit of money and I must get out to buy a Lotto ticket ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Jesus, to Martha: "You worry about all these things......"

Anonymous said...

Peter, your ABC is optimistic. Our brothers and sisters in the East have intra church politics that we cannot begin to understand. It will be interesting to see how their pan orthodox council goes before we get happy too quickly.

Nikolai (aka Nick in the west)

Father Ron Smith said...

" It will be interesting to see how their pan orthodox council goes before we get happy too quickly.'

Nikolai (aka Nick in the west)

And 'getting happy too quickly' would be a sin in the Roman Catholic Church, right, Nick?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick and Ron

Nick: you are welcome to ignore that barb from Ron!

Ron: your question to Nick verges on ad hominem comment. Consider this a warning about such comments.