Date of Easter

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I received the following question and thought you would have a perfect answer for this!

The Roman Catholic Church has not questioned science in recent centuries. Why does the Church cling to Paschal Full Moon instead of the verifiable, astronomically-defined Full Moon of March 20, 2019 at 9:46 p.m., following the March 20 2019 Equinox at 5:58 p.m. to date Easter on Sunday, March 24, 2019? 


A: I noticed the same thing. Spring and the full moon both fell on the same day in 2019, and spring came first by a few hours. So why aren’t we eating chocolate Easter bunnies now?

The answer is that by ancient tradition the Catholic Church regards March 21 as the equinox, even when it’s not. So the full moon that came on the preceding day is still counted as a winter moon, even though (wink, wink) you and I both know it was spring.

Your questioner wonders why does the church cling to this tradition? I don’t know, but my hunch is that changing it would cause yet another variation in the observance of Easter. It would be very hard to get ecumenical consensus on this, especially since the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Easter about a month after we do as it is. There is a desire to get everyone on the same page, and the Catholic Church has expressed a willingness to change the date of Easter if we could get consensus with the Orthodox – say, having it on the first Sunday of April every year. So far, no dice.

I don’t expect we’ll change the date without broad agreement. That could take a while. So, no chocolate for the next few weeks.