By James C. Sprouse
Easter is March 27 and Holy Week at Trinity is filled with celebrations of worship: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. It hasn’t always been such a full week of celebration surrounding Easter. For nearly three hundred years Easter was celebrated on only one day. It wasn’t until the fourth century that it expanded into a week-long festival. The marking of Jesus’ death by crucifixion was separated from the Easter Sunday festivities. Easter was the main annual feast of the Christian church. It was frequently called the Christian Passover and was celebrated as the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
During the second century disputes arose about the correct date for Easter, and in Rome various churches observed different dates. Churches in Asia Minor kept the Jewish calendar, meaning Easter was celebrated on different days of the week, depending on the first full moon after the spring equinox. Most churches celebrated Easter as the Sunday closest to the 15 of Nissan in the Jewish calendar. Easter’s date was not finally settled in the West (Roman Catholic Church) until the Synod of Whitby in 664 CE. Officially, Easter is the first Sunday, on or after the full moon, after the spring equinox. So, without ever calling your local church, you can look at next year’s lunar calendar and figure out when Easter will be celebrated. All other dates in the Christian year are calculated either forward or backward from that date, with the exception being Christmas.
If it could be said that the whole of the Christian faith stands or falls with any one claim, the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead is definitely that claim. Without faith in a “risen” and “living” Christ there would be no Christianity. It was not Jesus’ ethical teachings and example of his noble death that gave birth to the Christian church and made it spread: it was the news of his resurrection. Only because Jesus’ early followers believed in a risen Christ did they look back on his life inquiring about the meaning of his birth, life, teachings and death. Paul once argued: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…” “We are of all people most to be pitied” (I Cor.15:17-19). Earliest Christians summarized everything in their confession: “Jesus is Lord!” This is a title conferred on Jesus because of his resurrection. Easter faith is resurrection faith. AMEN!