Why are there two Easters???
The divide between the Eastern Orthodox and the Western Churches is never more clearly seen than in the Celebration of Christmas and Easter Sunday. The divide in the Church began with the fall of Rome when East and West lost verbal communication due to the difference between their languages: Latin and Greek. In 1054 the Roman Church Pope excommunicated the Greek Patriarch and the Greek Patriarch excommunicated the Roman Pope. The two Churches were not officially separated until 1453 when one of the Gates to the City of Constantinople was left unlocked and the Ottoman Turks sacked the City. The Eastern Church, under Moslem control, renounced their ties to Rome and the split was final.
In 1542 the Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII to fix the problems in the Julian calendar which was instituted in 46 BC by Julius Caesar. It took hundreds of years for the Gregorian calendar to be adopted. Russia and Spain adopted it in the early 1900’s.
The difference between the two calendars is approximately 13 days; the Julian dates always being later than the Gregorian calendar dates.
Western Christianity follows the Gregorian calendar while the Eastern Orthodox Churches follow the Julian calendar.
Since the Eastern Orthodox Churches (Greek & Russian are the largest) follow the Julian Calendar for Feasts and Holy Days and the Western; Roman Catholic & Protestant Churches follow the Gregorian calendar the dates are different… But there is another factor in this…
The Eastern Orthodox Churches still follow the early practices of the Christian Church concerning which states that the Celebration of Easter must follow the Passover which falls on the 14th day of the month of Nisan in the Jewish Calendar.
This was decided in 325AD at the Council of Nicea. Constantine I converted to Christianity in 312AD and in the Edict of Milan, he along with Licinius Augustus Emperor of the East, proclaimed that Christianity was to be tolerated in the Roman Empire.
The Council of Nicea
The Council of Nicea was called in 325AD by Constantine I to deal with the heretical teaching of Arianism which stated that Jesus was not “God in the flesh” and to deal with the Celebration of Easter.
The Nicene Creed, the earliest Creed of the Christian Church came out of that First Ecumenical (worldwide) Council. The practice of keeping 40 days of Lent also came out of the Council.
The Council also decreed that the Celebration of Easter must follow the Jewish Feast of Passover so the Biblical sequence of Holy Week; The Last Supper, the Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, would be maintained.
However, in modern times, the Western Church has rejected the part of the Nicene formula that requires that Pascha “always follow the Jewish Passover.” Western theologians (and, unfortunately, a few misguided Orthodox Theologians as well) now claim that this provision was never a part of the council’s intention, saying that it is not necessary for Pascha to follow the Jewish Passover.
By rejecting this provision of the council, they ignore that the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection was celebrated at the same time from 325-1582, as well as the written witness of early Church historians and even earlier canons such as Canon VII of the Apostolic Canons which reads: “If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon celebrate the holy day of Pascha before the vernal equinox with the Jews, let him be deposed.”
It seems to me that the Easter Orthodox Churches are more Biblically correct to celebrate Easter Sunday after the Jewish Passover and to continue to follow the dictates of the First Council of Nicea.
The 3 Feasts of Holy Week
Unleavened Bread – Passover – First Fruits
On the 14th of Nissan two Feasts begin:
The Feast of Unleavened Bread where the Leaven is removed from the house
The Passover where the Lamb is slain
The Passover Seder (Meal) is eaten that evening
The Feast of First Fruits
Let’s explore the 3 Feasts!
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
Matthew 26:17-20 Now on the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.
Jesus ate the Last Supper on our Thursday evening and it was the Passover Meal and the First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and instituted The Lord’s Supper…
Holy Communion is our Feast of Unleavened Bread
The Feast of The Passover
While many people had already eaten the Passover Meal, on the 14th of Nissan at 9am the High Priest would take the Official Passover Lamb and put it on display for all to see…
And at 9am, at the same time… Jesus was hung on the cross for all to see…
Then, at 3pm the High Priest would slay it offering it as a sacrifice and say: “It is finished”.
And at 3pm, at the same time; Good Friday, Jesus cried out: “It is finished” and gave up His life!
1 Corinthians 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ, our Passover Lamb, is sacrificed for us:
Jesus is our Passover Lamb!
The Feast of First Fruits
On the 15th of Nissan just as the sun was going down, 3 men, accompanied by a Priest and at least one Elder would go to where 3 sheaves of barley were separated by hoops and reap them. They were then brought to the Temple. At 6am on the 16th of Nissan they were presented to a Priest who joined the 3 together as 1 and presented them to The Lord by waving them back and forth. This was to thank God for the promise of the Harvest to come.
Matthew 28:1-8 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
The Feast of First Fruits was celebrated on that Sunday at the same time that Jesus rose from the dead!
Jesus is our First Fruits!
1 Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
So Jesus fulfilled all of the Feasts of Holy Week in:
The Last Supper
His Death and Burial