One of the earliest and protracted controversies experienced by the Church in the early centuries was how to calculate the date of Easter. Those who are interested in learning more about the history of this dispute can do an Internet search for the "Easter controversy."
The formula that received consensus from all was this: Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the vernal equinox. Since spring or the vernal equinox is always on March 21, the first possible date of Easter is 22 March and the latest possible date is 25 April.
The March 22 occurrence of Easter is so rare that the last was in 1818 and the next one will be in 2285. Equally rare is the March 23 occurrence; the last was in 1913 and it won?t happen again until 2160, after this year. So we are fortunate to witness an extraordinary phenomenon!
Easter last fell on the latest possible date, April 25, in 1943 and will next fall on that date in 2038. However, it will fall on April 24, just one day before this latest possible date, in 2011.
The cycle of Easter dates repeats after exactly 5,700,000 years, with April 19 being the most common date, happening 220,400 times, or 3.9% compared to a mean for all dates of 162,857 times, or 2.9%.
Early Easter is very much welcome at ski resorts in Europe and North America who are busy preparing for large holiday crowds. Ash Wednesday which falls on February 6th comes only 42 days after Christmas and has had a cascading effect in Australia. Supermarkets in Australia loaded hot cross buns on the shelves even before the Christmas trees had come down. One week after Christmas, shoppers were being greeted with shelves full of the tantalizing spiced product traditionally eaten on Good Friday.
Even though the last strains of the final Christmas hymns are still echoing in the church, we must now turn our hearts and minds to the startling words of Ash Wednesday: "Remember, man, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return."
Ronald D’Souza currently lives in Mississauga, Toronto. He takes pride in serving the Mangalorean Community in Toronto as a member of the Executive Committee of MAC. His interests are reading, travel and photography.
Author: Ronald DSouza- Toronto