This month we find ourselves in an interesting conundrum as we note the holidays on the Jewish calendar. Purim falls on Maundy Thursday and Passover falls on April 23, almost a month after Easter. So, the conundrum was whether or not to celebrate Easter on March 27, or to celebrate Easter on May 1.
May 1? Well, the Orthodox Christian Church celebrates Easter according to the Julian calendar, while the western Church celebrates Easter according to the Gregorian calendar. The differences in these two calendars are similar to the challenges in the Jewish calendar (see February’s newsletter). The Gregorian calendar was established in the 16th century as an effort to bring the calendar into alignment with the vernal equinox, so that Easter would be on the first full moon following the vernal equinox. But that makes Easter earlier than the Orthodox Church’s celebration, which is calculated according to the Julian calendar, but also takes into account the adherence by the Orthodox to the early practices of the Christian Church, which, at the council of Nicea, 325 AD, required Easter to take place during the Jewish Passover.
Wow…truthfully, we never considered celebrating Easter in May, but it certainly would have been easier with our schedule. We are, after all, part of the Western Church, and it would be awkward to deviate from the rest of the Church’s schedule. And we are reminded by St. Paul to “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16-17). We rejoice that in Christ, we have the freedom to celebrate these things or not, and to make adjustments, if needed. Instead, as you probably know, we celebrated Purim during Purim Katan (again, see last month’s newsletter), and our Passover Seder is still on Palm Sunday, which is March 20.
Freedom in Christ…I understand that. But if I had to adhere to the law, I would be confused about something I read today. There is a new product on the market called the HotMat, “a new foldable hotplate designed to give observant Jewish consumers a safe, portable and rabbinically sanctioned method of heating up food on the Sabbath.” Technology designed for keeping the law comfortably and safely! How is it that so much time and effort is spent on being flexible about the law, and yet, our people are still so stubborn about Messiah?!
The challenge of all this is that our annual St. Patrick’s Day Outreach, Palm Sunday and our Passover Seder is all the same week. Oy! But, the upside is that April should be a quiet month (that never happens!). Pray for the many people that we meet during this season, that they would consider Messiah Y’shua!