Friday 25 March 2016

Craig's Out of Office Good Friday message

Veterans of our curious little blog might recall, a few years back, that I mentioned my family's Good Friday walk to Morecambe's Bronze-Age barrow to witness our local Methodist church's annual carrying and placing of a cross atop that ancient man-made mound. 

I found it moving.

Four generations of my family again saw that very cross today, gleaming in the inevitable Morecambe sunshine against the distant backdrop of the Lakeland hills. 

I found that moving too.

And then we all started drinking.

The toddlers drank huge amounts of milk and orange. Their dad drank pale ale, while the rest of us older-and-wiser menfolk drank liver-defying quantities of red wine (the blood of Christ) in remembrance of our Lord and Saviour (not that anyone mentioned Him.) And three generations of our womenfolk honoured the Blessed Virgin by consuming government-guideline-defying units of New Zealand sauvignon blanc (without mentioning Her either).

We then collectively read Rabelais and died of alcohol poisoning. (My last words were: "I'm not bloody Oliver Reid you know").

All of which reminds me that at least two BBC Radio 4 programmes discussed the date of Easter this week: Monday's Beyond Belief and Tuesday's Making History - and specifically the question of why Easter is 'a movable feast'. 

The BBC bias angle was especially blatant on Beyond Belief. All three guests, responding to Justin Welby's suggestion that the date of Easter be fixed, strongly rejected Archbishop Justin's proposal. Not one of them defended it. Ergo: #bbcbias.

That said, I learned a lot from both programmes. 

It turns out that the Western Church bases the date of Easter on the Gregorian solar-based calendar whilst tracking the lunar-based Jewish calendar in the light of Passover, and that this results in complications. The date of Easter can fall between 22 March and 25 April as a result. The Eastern church, however, still follows the Julian calendar and seems to be much less tied to Passover whilst continuing to use an anti-Semitic liturgy. An academic - linking to official Catholic belief - dates the resurrection of Christ to Sunday 5 April 33 AD. (Others are less sure - to put it mildly). And what about 'Missing Wednesday', the day the New Testament seems to miss? Plus there's 1928 UK legislation in force to fix the date of Easter which has never been acted upon. 

Food for thought...which is all I can manage at the moment, except to give you a Bach Easter chorale:


  1. A very lovely and touching family scene, Craig. You should probably be thankful no modern 'pagans' have noticed this celebration and decided to attach it for wrongful cultural appropriation of the ancient celtic beliefs or something.

    As for the connection between Passover and Easter, this year Passover will begin on the evening of April 22. Fixing Easter on a specific day of the week but then trying to reconcile it with a specific date on a completely different calendar is always going to be a bit off. Did they mention that this year is a leap year in the Jewish calendar, with an extra month?

    Did they mention the difference between when the Seder is held today and when it was held in the days when the Temple still existed? In Jesus' time, it was on the eve of the second day, and the sacrifice done by the priests was on the eve of the first day (sacrifices stopped after the Temple was destroyed during the 70 AD uprising, and Jews had to work out a new way of doing things).

    I will try to listen to it this weekend before commenting further.

  2. The Easter date was a big bone of contention between the Celtic Church of the Britons and the Catholic Church when it started making inroads into the pagan Anglo Saxon kingdoms. I think the Celtic Church's was actually more historically accurate. I would oppose any proposal that Welby made on the basis that it is almost certainly wrongheaded.

  3. Listening to Beyond Belief now. Who cares how fixing the date of Easter affects Jews? Why would it affect Jews at all, unless they run flower or chocolate shops?

    All these explanations of full moons and equinoxes, but nobody mentioning the elephant in the room: Easter was made to usurp a pagan holiday.

    At least the Jewish guy did mention the leap year situation. I'm unaware of Jewish leaders complaining that this shifting of dates makes things "inconvenient". It rather undermines the whole argument here.

    I don't know about elsewhere, but a lot of churches in various denominations in the US hold some semblance of a Passover Seder every year for precisely the reasons laid out here. Very good that they segued from this straight into the problem of anti-Jewish sentiment in liturgy. They didn't mention any specifics, but unfortunately it's been embedded in Christian liturgy starting with the Gospels. Mark is especially problematic. It's too bad that the panel decided to simply act apologetic and disappointed instead of explaining how it came about. The early Christian leaders had to start separating themselves from Jews, and faced trouble from them at the time. So it's not a surprise that some felt they had to portray Jews as the bad guys early on.

    I mentioned in my previous comment the difference between when the Seder was held back then and now. They touched on this here, although didn't make it clear why that is. But they did point out the problem of Jesus dying on the afternoon before the eve of the First Day of Passover (when the sacrifice was done), which means the Last Supper wasn't even during Passover. But the Gospels say it was, and back then, pilgrims had big communal meals eating the sacrificed lambs for the whole week. So anyone saying Jesus died on that day can't be correct. They should have made more of that rather than declaring John right.

    Back to the question of whether or not Easter should be fixed, separating it from Passover is a clear break with Christian belief. May as well make it at the end of the school term if convenience is all that matters. The Archbishop should be ashamed. At least the Jewish guy on the panel agrees with me. Paul Daly made a good point that the link wouldn't matter much if the knowledge of the Jewish date was lost to history, because the spiritual connection is still there in the liturgy and worship. But it hasn't been, so that's not an excuse to break the link now. Good thing nobody brought up Christmas, right?

    Interesting that the Finns and Greeks celebrate with the Western Church. Very revealing about the political history of the Orthodox Church.

    Great little EU reference there at the end about Britain losing 10 days when joining Europe in the Gregorian calendar. Not quite a pro-Remain moment. It could have been, but they wisely left it there.

  4. I myself don`t want a fixed Easter.I like the variety, and the idea that-just this once-the Christian calculations determine what the Godless have to set their calendars to.
    God knows-there`s no other example, seems to be all we`ve got these days.
    Besides-when I hear persecuted Eastern Christians plead that a fixed Easter would remind us all on the same day of that fact-I only think of a spineless ennervated church that would rather send them a calendar than fight for them-let alone ensuring that the persecuted Christians and non-Shia/Sunni get to the front of the queues at Immigration.
    Just don`t think it`s the Christians job to help the NUT fix their cheap package tours a year early...and, as a maths teacher-I STILL have no clue about that table that they calculate Easters date.


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