TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — How do you know Easter is on the way?
For many of us, it’s the sudden blooming of baskets, plastic grass, bunnies, and mounds of candy on the grocery shelves. And if the timing of this commercial event seems unpredictable, that’s because the church calendar for Easter is different each year.
The calculations for the date are complicated, based on several customs and calendar traditions. The Last Supper shared by Jesus and his disciples right before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion was a Passover meal. So the first Christians celebrated his resurrection close to this Jewish festival, in spring.
The Hebrew lunisolar calendar (based on the moon phase and the time of the solar year) makes Passover a changing date. Controversies within the Early Church about using this system — and the development of competing computational tables — led to today’s elaborate dating method.
Easter now is the first Sunday after the first paschal full moon (the 14th day of the lunar month) that falls after the Spring Equinox (March 21). And Easter is often different in the Western and Eastern Christian churches because of the 13-day difference in the Gregorian and Julian calendars (which follow the cycle of the sun and the seasons).
Have I lost you?
Well, set aside the complexities of these calculations. The real significance of Easter’s date, I believe, is that it is a “moveable feast.”
That is, on Easter, followers of Jesus are not commemorating the fixed date of a one-time historical event. We are lifting up a message of renewal and new life — available to all, at any time of year, or life.
This feast of spirit comes in the spring, a season we in the Sierra know is extremely variable. Sometimes early, sometimes late, new green growth always eventually pushes through the warming earth and swells from the branches. Connected to the natural cycles of sun and moon and all living things, we are also invited to experience a surge of new life — although the timing is all up to us.
When will we open our awareness to something greater than ourselves? Push through the cold? Answer the longing to move beyond patterns of hurt or pain to the presence and practice of love? Experience a spiritual resurrection that lifts and lightens us?
The moveable feast of Easter tells us that this deep renewal can happen at any moment in our lives, whenever we claim it.
And we can share its power.
Christian communities worldwide celebrate our constant renewal, in joy, in every season: through acts of mutual support, acts of compassion, acts of healing in the example of our beloved Teacher, Jesus.
The date he rose to new life is not significant. The invitation to share this new life is. Experience a spiritual springtime this Easter — and year round.
Rev. Clare C. Novak is the Associate for Interfaith Ministry at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Incline Village