Why are Orthodox churches celebrating Easter this Sunday?

The celebration of the resurrection of Jesus is the most important day in the Christian calendar. That day differs in the western Christian tradition and among churches in areas of the world that have been influenced by the eastern or Orthodox tradition.

It all goes back to the Roman Empire and a division that took place one thousand years ago between Rome in the West and Constantinople in the East, the two capitals of the empire. Following the split of the government, church leaders aligned themselves with the respective governments. In what has been described as the Great Schism of 1054, the Pope-led Catholic Church in Rome excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople, leader of the Orthodox Church, who in turn excommunicated the Pope. Though now separate, the two churches agreed that believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection and acknowledging Christ as savior was central to Christianity.

For the next 500 years everyone in Christianity used the same Julian calendar and set of rules to celebrate Easter after Jewish Passover which was dictated by the Jewish lunar calendar. The problem of two dates for Easter cropped up after countries in Europe began adopting the Gregorian calendar that more accurately accounts for the vernal equinox and summer and winter solstices. The Catholic church began using the new calendar, but Orthodox churches did not even after the countries in which they were situated made the switch. So, Orthodox churches around the world will celebrate Easter this Sunday. In many countries, Egypt, for example, most non-orthodox churches follow the lead of their local Orthodox churches and celebrate Easter at the same time.

For millions of Christians, this is the week they end their 40 days of Lent. This is the week they commemorate the betrayal, trials and crucifixion of Jesus. On Sunday, they will celebrate the resurrection just as hundreds of millions of Christians did three weeks ago. The next time all Christianity will celebrate Easter on the same day will be in 2034.

Do you celebrate Easter? Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If you’re not sure or would like to know more about Jesus, please contact us. We would love to talk with you about how you can enjoy a renewed life and assurance of where you will spend eternity.