Easter Day is the day of resurrection. We’ve walked together through a holy Lent and are experiencing the beauty, sorrow, and passion of Holy Week. Now we turn to victory, resurrection, rejoicing, and sheer celebration for Christ is Risen, he is risen indeed!
Easter was known in the early Church as Pascha, from the Greek paschein and closely related to the Hebrew Passover. We see this connection in Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, a part of which we say each Sunday at Holy Communion.
Though the word Pascha was commonly used for Easter, the annual date for celebrating it was not universal. Early in the Church’s life there was some controversy regarding exactly when Easter should be celebrated. Some regions of the Church, most notably those who traced their lineage to St. John, celebrated Pascha on 14 Nisan -- the exact date of the Passover each year. This group was called the Quartodecimans (like calling them the 14ers). Because 14 Nisan is based on a lunar calendar, this celebration did not always occur on a Sunday, the first day of the week.
And just as there was a significant community celebrating Pascha on 14 Nisan, there was also a large community celebrating Pascha on the first Sunday after 14 Nisan. They, perhaps taking a cue from Luke’s Book of Acts, remembered that the early Christians gathered on Sundays. In the synoptic Gospels the resurrection occurred on a Sunday, and sought to maintain that symbolism and continuity today.
Over time, the Sunday crowd won the day, and like the generations since, we celebrate the victory over sin and death in Jesus’ resurrection on the first Sunday following the first full moon after March 21. This is typically the first Sunday after 14 Nisan.