Thursday, 21 January 2010

Praying for Christian Unity? - Why Not One Date for Easter?

The Greek Orthodox calendar for the 21st century shows that the Western Church and the Orthodox will celebrate Easter on the same date 31 times. The last time East and West will celebrate it together in this century will be 2099. After that it will be 801 years before there is a common date! This will be in 2900.

Why is this important? Why worry about Easter? Clearly, one of the main reasons for pursuing Christian Unity is so that we can all witness together. How can we present a credible witness to the world when we can't even agree to celebrate the Lord's Resurrection on the same day? It is true that not all Christians celebrate the Birth of The Lord on the same day (for example the Copts celebrate in January), but Easter is the central feast of the Christian life, and it would be a great sign of our common faith and our desire to be "one" if we could share the proclamation of Easter morning.

The above banner is from a web site where you can sign a petition to urge the major Christian leaders of East and West to continue working towards an agreement on this. Some work has already been done between Orthodox and Roman Catholic representatives, but we need to move ahead. I know that most of us (who can read and walk upright) will not be around for 2099, but we surely have a duty to do something to advance this cause. This coming Easter we will be celebrating on the same date. If you don't think that is very important, just think of Pope John Paul II's words about the Church "breathing with both lungs" and the present Pope's committment to the cause of unity. Think back to that extraordinary meeting between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI in the '70's. Can we do something to push towards the dream of unity? Will God bless our efforts to unite around the empty tomb, the upper room and the Mount of the Ascension? Why not sign that petition (here)?


  1. The Spirit seems to speak to individual hearts, softening them. What we need to pray for, is an en-masse melt!

  2. I think that the problem arises from the "Orthodox" refusal to accept the Gregorian reform of the calendar. Indeed protestant England only accepted it a couple of centuries after it had been promulgated.

  3. Jesus says in the TLIG messages, the correct date is the one when we celebrate together :D Well? whatever date that is ....apparently dates and times are not that important. The important part is Unity, celebrating it together and we all know from the TLIG messages it will only happen through the Holy Spirit . When our hearts are humble and when we love our neighbour . Praise God!

    I guess my question is this: Is it alright to celebrate Easter , partake in the mass and communion with the Orthodox and vice versa? Is that what God is asking Fr. ? Of course they will need to bend also. I'm reminded of the vision of the 3 iron bars. boy I better stop now ...

  4. Dear Jackie,
    I was with Vassula and about 60 others in Alexandria, Egypt, two years ago, to celebrate Easter with the Orthodox, at the invitation of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. So, we did celebrate with them, and went through the ceremonies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. On the Sunday we celebrated at the Grrek consulate with a barbeque and much Greek dancing (I did not dance because I had a bad leg!). It was a wonderful experience, but having Easter at the same time (as we do this year and next) is even better. As far as receiving Holy Communion at Orthodox Liturgies is concerned, I think it is best to wait until invited otherwise there is the risk of giving offence, but if you know a sympathetic Orthodox priest you could always ask. As far as sharing Communion is concerned, Vassula always obtains permission or is invited. Some people throw all kinds of accusations around without knowing the facts. For example, she personally obtained permission from the Vatican for everyone on TLIG pilgrimages to receive Holy Communion at Catholic Masses. "Intercommunion" is not allowed on the pilgrimages, by the way (we do not receive Communion at Anglican Masses etc).
    I think, even if you do not receive Holy Communion, you are free to attend Orthodox Liturgies, and I recommend it.