Since the second century, Christians disagreed over the date of Pascha until it was fixed in the Nicene Council to be celebrated on the Sunday that follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox (i.e. 21st of March). Then, we continued celebrating this way, in the East and the West, until the reformation of the Pope Gregory XIII who reformed the calendar. We didn’t change the calendar, therefore a 13 day gap between us and the west happened because the Western 21st of March differs from the Eastern 21st of March. This explains the existence of two celebrations of Pascha.
In March 1997, the representatives of all Christian Churches met for discussions in Aleppo. They agreed on following the decision of the First Ecumenical Council (the Nicene), as we previously said, according to the vernal equinox and the full moon. They agreed on the necessity of doing the calculations through the most precise scientific methods.
There is an initial orientation towards unity. However, nothing shows till this moment that we are heading towards it. I believe that this issue, that seems a great concern in our region, doesn’t have such an importance in countries that are religiously homogeneous. The existence of a mixture strengthens the concern.
Also, if some countries suffered in the past from the change that was done to the date of Christmas, what would they feel towards a change in Pascha? In Greece, a great number of believers didn’t accept the decision of the Church management to adopt the western calculation for Christmas. The difficulty for us, as Orthodox Christians, is that such a decision needs to be discussed and agreed by our Churches. However, supposedly the spiritual authorities agreed, this doesn’t necessitate that people will follow. There are field studies that show whether people agree or don’t.
However, before a global solution, we could think about regional ones. In this sense, Pope Paul VI allowed Eastern Catholics to celebrate with the Orthodox if they were the majority. According to this, the feast was united in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine (the region of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem).
Here, we got closer to each other, and Catholic Churches almost shared with us one date until one of their authorities decided to do a referendum for this subject over the faithful. We didn’t get any results of this referendum. Obviously, we have to preserve the Orthodox brotherhood in the world before reaching a global solution.
Nevertheless, my wish today is to say that the public gives this issue an undeserved great importance. The Evangelical and the Western celebrate together but this didn’t make them closer theologically and intellectually. The Catholics and we are closer to each other than the Evangelical, and celebrating Pascha differently added nothing to our conflicts.
Those who call for unity say: “We want to feel that we are united”. Is this our unity? If we celebrated together in 2002, would conflicts between Churches disappear (At least the Pope’s global authority and his immaculacy without mentioning other conflicts)?
We get anaesthetized by the unity of Pascha, and this might suggest that problems got solved. The truth is that we would appear in a scene of unity and not a state of unity. The reality of the situation today is that great difficulties appeared among us recently (confrontations in Easter Europe) and also on the theological level [excluding us from our Catholic (i.e. universal) Church membership]. What would a united feast benefit us in the midst of intellectual diverge?
Translated by Mark Najjar
Original Text: “هل ضروري الفصح الواحد؟” –Raiati 5-
Translated by Mark Najjar
Original Text: “هل ضروري الفصح الواحد؟” –Raiati 5- 04.02.2001Continue reading