We sometimes hear complaints about Christmas preparations starting too early and then finishing as soon as Christmas Day is over, but the same thing can happen with Easter.
Easter Day should be the beginning of a period of celebration that lasts through to Pentecost. This is the time when we remember the various appearances of the risen Christ to his disciples that form the basis of our faith. One of the most important church meetings ever to take place in England was the Synod of Whitby, held in 664. The chief item on the agenda was the date of Easter. The Celtic church, which had its origins in Ireland was represented by King Oswy and the Celtic bishops Colman and Cedd. They claimed that their date for Easter had come down to them from St. John. The Romans were represented by St. Wilfred who claimed that the Roman date for Easter had been inherited from St. Peter. Eventually, after much argument, the Roman date was settled upon by King Oswy himself because, he said, St. Peter was the keeper of the keys of heaven (Matt 16:19). Both dates for Easter were based on the lunar calendar and we still celebrate Easter on the Sunday following the Paschal full moon, even though many attempts have been made over the years to find a fixed date.
The fact that we follow the lunar calendar for Easter links us back to the Jewish roots of Christianity and shows how this festival has had the primacy in importance ever since the beginning of Christianity. Paul explains this to us in 1 Corinthians, where he is at pains to list the appearances of the risen Christ to many people and finally to Paul himself. He says that, without this proof of the resurrection and without our belief in Christ resurrection and our hope for our own resurrection, we would have no faith worth the name.
We are moving on now to celebrate Pentecost on the first Sunday of this plan. This is the next step in the resurrection story. It tells us that the risen Christ is not only alive, but alive in us through the Holy Spirit. The new life found in the resurrection is not limited to any one time and place but is in Christ’s people, the body of Christ, throughout the world in every time and place. We are now the living witnesses to the resurrection and that is what we celebrate.
God bless you, Richard