Why Does Easter Fall on a Different Day Each Year?

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Why Does Easter Fall on a Different Day Each Year?

In the early days of our Church, just as today, there were many different beliefs. The society was very agricultural, and many religions used the seasons to celebrate special feasts. It was important, in teaching about Jesus, to have people connect the Gospel message to their daily lives. Since Jesus' resurrection was the beginning of a whole new life and occurred so near the spring feasts, it was determined that Easter would always be calculated as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (that is, the first day of spring).


originally appeared in Knowing Our Catholic Faith


The Ascension

Mark’s Gospel originally ends with the empty tomb. Stories of Jesus’ appearances were added later. Matthew and John contain stories of Jesus’ Resurrection and of his continued appearances to his disciples. Luke, however, introduces the story of Jesus’ Ascension. In his Gospel, after Jesus is raised in glory, he teaches his disciples for 40 days so they can carry on his mission. When these days of instruction are over, he ascends to heaven to be with God the Father.

When the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit 10 days later, they are ready to carry on Jesus’ mission from Jerusalem to Rome and the very ends of the empire. This mission of the early Church is described in the Acts of the Apostles.

Pentecost

Jesus promised his apostles that he would send them the Holy Spirit to empower them to be Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth. The universal Church celebrates the fulfillment of this promise on the feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.1” (CCC 1076)


1 Cf.SC 6;LG 2

Excerpts from Catechism of the Catholic Church. English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America copyright © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Librería Editrice Vaticana. English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica copyright © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Librería Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

Sunday: Celebrating the Resurrection

The third commandment obliges us to keep holy the Sabbath, which is the seventh day of the week, the day on which God rested after creating the world. The first Christians rested and worshiped on Saturday, but gradually switched to Sunday. One reason was the desire to distinguish themselves from the Jewish community that did not accept Jesus as Messiah. But the main reason was the realization that the resurrection of Jesus had changed everything and was at the very center of the Christian faith. The Sabbath, which had focused on the past—resting from the labors of the week just ending—became for Christians a forward-looking celebration of new life. Easter Sunday morning was the dawn of a new life, and every Sunday Christians celebrate the renewal of humanity and of the entire universe that took place through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.