COLUMBIA — Last week, many western Christians observed Easter, the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection three days after being crucified. However, for followers of Orthodox Christianity, Easter is still more than a month away, with this year’s celebration falling on April 27. The disparity in dates lies in the different calendars followed by each faith.
Different beliefs, different dates
The Orthodox Church split from the Roman Catholic Church in the Great Schism of 1054, mostly because Eastern churches disagreed with some attributes of the pope’s authority. The Orthodox church is not headed by a pontiff but rather an organization of self-governing churches that believe “no one but Christ himself is the real head of the Church,” according to Orthodoxy in America.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as many Eastern Catholic churches, follow the Julian calendar established by Julius Caesar.
The Western church uses the Gregorian calendar, which was established in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a reformed version of the earlier calendar. The Gregorian calendar is 13 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which, coupled with differing definitions of a full moon and an equinox, account for the date disparity.
Shared traditional roots
Although the date of Easter is a matter of differing faiths, Orthodox and western Christians share many Easter traditions.
One is the practice of painting Easter eggs, which originated in the 13th century out of an earlier Christian tradition in which eggs were forbidden to be eaten during Holy Week. As a symbol of their faith, Christians marked the Holy Week eggs by dying or painting them.
Eastern Orthodox Christians also observe Lent, a 40-day fasting period excluding Sundays that culminates during the week before Easter, or Holy Week.
Sources: britannica.com, The Religion Newswriters Association, Orthodoxy in America
For more in Faith, go to the Missourian’s FaithinFocus blog.