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March 08, 2005

Why the date of Easter should not be fixed

Posted by Peter Mullen

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen explains why fixing the date of Easter is wrong. Such a move would further undermine the place of the Church in society.

You might think this is a bit of crinoline and ecclesiastical old lace – but it isn't. John Humphrys came on the Today programme this morning to ask if it was time for Parliament to consider implementing the 1928 Act to fix the date of Easter. It is revealing to notice the style in which this issue was introduced. Humphrys began by making a dismissive remark about the fact that the arrangements for our current moveable Easter were last adjusted three hundred years ago: "…back in 1750". He was displaying a typical contemporary ignorance of and contempt for anything that happened longer ago than a week last Tuesday.

And what might be the consequences of having a fixed Easter? To Humphrys they were merely:

So we shan't be able to go round any longer saying to one another, "Ah, I see Easter's early this year".

Suppose John Humphrys had employed intelligent and informed arguments to discuss this issue, what might he have said?

He would have begun by explaining why Easter occurs when it does. That it is decided by the appearance of the full moon which can be anytime between March 21st and April 25th.

He would have explained that this is not some sort of arcane arbitrariness but tied to the phase of the moon at the time of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt recorded in the Old Testament. You can just hear the modernisers asking why something that happened 3200 years ago could possibly be relevant to us in our era of sublime modernity. The reason is – as any thirteen-year-old Confirmation candidate from fifty years back could have told you – that the Jews' exodus was a deliverance wrought by the mighty hand of God prefiguring the Resurrection of Our Lord on the first Easter. The Resurrection being the greater and universal deliverance from sin and death. The whole of the Western Church, the Roman Catholics and all the Protestant sects observe Easter on the same Sunday each year.

Again an intelligent and informed presenter would have said something like:

Well, if the government implements the 1928 Act for fixing the date of Easter, this will only apply to the Church of England and the worldwide Roman Catholic church will still operate according to the traditional moveable system. This will result in a further division in what remains of the unity of the churches in the eyes of the world, won't it? People will say, "See – the churches can't even agree on the date of Easter!"

So the issue is rather more significant than Humphry's flippant and vacuous assertion that a change would be a mere opportunity for people to pass casual remarks to the effect that fings ain't wot they used to be.

In fact the fixing of Easter by Act of Parliament would be to further marginalise the church in public life. It would be an extension of the secularisation that abolished Whitsuntide and set up Spring Bank Holiday. Who now "out there" – as the apparatchiks in the Beeb describe the public – knows that Whitsunday is the Feast of Pentecost, of the coming of the Holy Ghost, the church's birthday? Similarly, the fixing of Easter by the secular authorities would be only latest move in the creeping campaign of atheism by stealth.

But cheer up! As I write, Easter still moves about gloriously following the phases of the Paschal full moon. This year it will be early - on Sunday 27th March. When Christ shall be risen and become the first fruits of them that slept. Let us rejoice and keep the feast. Alleluia!

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange.

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Anything that Humphrys asserts normally has a destructive and curmudgeonly motivation against tradition of any kind other than that that assists in the maintenance of Humphry, so who gives a fig what he wants? And why don't we just ignore him? But while you're on the subject, isn't it a fact that Easter is merely a commandeered pagan festival - Eostre - from whence its adapted name? Greek Godddess, rabbits and eggs and all that. When we start to get picky about when and where stolen property is recycled, aren't we on a slippery slope? To help you make up your mind, Google up the following, just for starters:

those will lead to other pastures replete with myths and mysteries and take your mind of the egregious Humph, his cut of the BBC licence fee and his persistent sinistral political bias. Or perhaps he would claim that those reports are also myths that should be regularized. If you get comfort from what you believe, believe away. But it is sometimes difficult to persuade others that it is important when available historical evidence can be adduced for so many different cases. And if we get angry about it, doesn't that lead to more curmudgeons like Humphreys, or even Osama bin Laden?
Here endeth the lesson.

Posted by: Frank Pulley at March 9, 2005 01:53 AM
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