A good and encouraging piece of news has recently surfaced indicating that a common date for Easter between East and West is in the offing which leaves the doors wide open for an emerging Christian unity.
With great optimism felt deep in the hearts of believers, the question that arises is how soon will agreeing on a common date for Easter be attained? The Christians worldwide are eagerly looking for the prompt and serious efforts in this direction in the hope that this will serve as an initial step leading to Church unity. The difference in the dates of the Eastern and Western Churches celebrating Easter is attributed to two different calendars, the time and date of the spring equinox, and the full moon.
The urgency to fulfill this endeavor lies in the light that in 2021 Catholics celebrated Easter Sunday on April 4, and Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on May 2.
The good and reassuring news is that President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and Orthodox Archbishop Job Getcha of Telmessos have agreed to jointly work to find a common date to celebrate Easter and give united witness to Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.
Archbishop Getcha suggested that the year 2025, which coincides with the 1,700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and during which the Eastern and Western Church will celebrate Easter on the same day — April 20 — might be an opportune time to reform the calendar.
In the first half of the 20th century several Orthodox countries adopted the Gregorian calendar, and their respective churches followed suit. For example, the Orthodox Church of Finland adopted the Gregorian calendar as early as 1920. This has resulted in Lutherans and Orthodox celebrating Easter in common.
The question of a common Easter date for Eastern and Western Christians was addressed in two documents of the Second Vatican Council in the appendix to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which stated:
“The Sacred Council would not object if the feast of Easter were assigned to a particular Sunday of the Gregorian Calendar, provided that those whom it may concern, especially the brethren who are not in communion with the Apostolic See, give their assent.”
The same desire to accommodate was expressed in the Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches:
“Until such time as all Christians agreed on a fixed day for the celebration of Easter, with a view meantime to promoting unity among the Christians of the same area or nation, it is left to the patriarchs or supreme authorities of a place to come to an agreement by the unanimous consent and combined counsel of those affected to celebrate the feast of Easter on the same Sunday.”
It is hoped that once a common date for Easter has been attained, it would serve as a starting point for cementing Church unity.
Every year, January 18-25 marks the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On this week, Christians worldwide make solemn and sincere prayers seeking Lord Jesus Christ's mercy and inspiration to help attain the long-inspired Christian unity.
The Catholic Church has left no stone unturned in its quest for the attainment of genuine Christian unity which has always been always been the dream of all Christians. The urgency of its attainment is not a matter of courtesy, but rather an exigent need.
The Holy Bible includes a glaring verse calling for unity. It states, “There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
As Christians in some parts of the world are suffering from persecution and forced displacement, it is an urgent need to accelerate efforts designed to promote efforts in the direction of Christian unity.
In a statement by His Holiness Pope Francis, he earlier said, “The Lord asks us for unity; our world, torn apart by all too many divisions that affect the most vulnerable, begs for unity.”
This is the optimum time to restore the brightness of Christian unity--particularly at the current time of difficulties and hardships which the Christians are encountering--by seeking the help of Blessed Mary and the love of Lord Jesus Christ.
It is hoped that the days to come will mark cementing Christian unity which will help restore the missing beauty of humanity and ensure a better future for Christians worldwide.