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Beautiful Words Blog | What Does The Earth's Rotation Have to Do With Easter? by Pastor John Moropoulos | Gateway Christian Fellowship

When I was a child, growing up in Los Angeles, being raised by two devoted parents, one Methodist and the other Greek Orthodox, a highlight of my year was Easter. I looked forward to it every year, not because of an advanced spirituality or depth of faith, but because in our home we got to have two Easters.

The first was, of course, “western Easter.” Nobody called it that, it was just “Easter,” but I

understood that they meant Easter as western Christians celebrated it. We enjoyed all the usual Easter activities, egg hunts, candies, Easter baskets (they rock), and so on.

Then, a few weeks later, we would enjoy “Greek Easter.” Now at this point I need to apologize to all of you Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian and other Orthodox believers for my lack of appreciation for your place in the Orthodox world, but we were Greeks and saw things that way.

Greek Easter came and with it a wonderful world of immersion in all things Greek: Greek family, Greek food, Greek friends, Greek music. Oopa! It even had a special, almost mystical element to it. That wasn’t so much a spiritual reality as the simple fact I didn’t understand a word that most of them were saying. But it was fun.

As the years passed, a question arose. Why are there two Easters? I understood that it was one but on different dates, but why? Others have asked me the same question, and so I’ve done a little research. I think I have it somewhat figured it out, and I’ll try to explain it now.

The difference is due to a couple of things, like planets, and equinoxes. The real problem is that earth revolves around the sun, but not exactly at the speed we are used to thinking. The earth goes around the sun and completes its course in 365 days, right. No, not exactly. It really takes 365 ¼ days to do it. So the leap year was invented. We can thank Julius Caesar for that. Seems he did more than just conquer stuff. This correction, adding a day every fourth year, lead to the Julian calendar, which was used by the early church.

The problem is, Caesar (or those who worked for him) wasn’t exactly correct either. Seems the earth makes it's way around the sun in just a bit under 365 ¼ days. So a simple leap year every fourth year made for an over-correction. By the 13th century, the error had added up and gotten quite serious. Easter, the dating of which was determined in part by the Equinox, was way off. Emperor Gregory XIII issued an edict correcting the matter and in 1582 the Gregorian calendar became the standard of the church. The western church that is. Orthodox churches kept the Julian Calendar.

In case you want to know how they differ, the Gregorian calendar, like the Julian, has a Leap Year every four years, unless the fourth year is a centennial year. Then no leap day. But if the centennial year is divisible by 400, it still gets its leap day.

But we are trying to figure out why the Resurrection remembrance is so different. How does this calendar stuff matter? There’s one more thing to add and it will all be clear. Not really but here goes.

The Resurrection followed Passover. Jesus was and is The Pascal Lamb. But the Jewish calendar isn’t based on either the Julian or the Gregorian, as those two are solar based. The Jewish calendar is based on both solar and lunar cycles, and has as many as 385 or as few as 353 days. Any expectation of the Jewish calendar being in sync with Julian or Gregorian calendar is going to end up with disappointment.

So the Eastern church, the Orthodox churches, determined that whatever their Julian calendar said, Greek Easter would be after Passover, following the Jewish calendar, even if the rest of their calendar lined up with the western church’s Gregorian calendar.

So that’s it. It’s a simple matter of sun and moon, equinoxes and emperors, leap years and quarter days, centennial years and years divisible by 400. Are we clear?

But this we do know…

…you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified.

He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.

Mark 16.6

By whatever calendar we use, we serve a Risen Savior.



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