The timing of Easter

This article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News newspaper on 6 April 2016.
In the deep, still darkness shortly before dawn on Easter Sunday, I sat with a silent gathering of worshippers in the ancient parish church of  Llansannan, waiting for the sun to rise above the Clwydian hills. We were there to observe the traditional Easter Vigil, the first communion of the holiest of Christian days; it was a memorable and moving experience.
Easter is arguably everyone’s favourite festival, whether religious or not, coming, as it does, at the end of winter and at the beginning of the warmer, lighter time of year.  It is a time of rest and, perhaps, of quiet reflection too.  This year, however, politics of the gentlest kind intruded into Easter.  The Archbishop of Canterbury announced that he intended to enter into discussions with other Christian leaders with a view to fixing its  date.  At present, Easter Day falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal equinox, which means that it can be as early as 22 March or as late as 25 April.
Fixing the date of Easter could have several benefits, not least for businesses and for those who arrange the school calendar; and those benefits have been recognised for many years.  Indeed, as long ago as 1928, Parliament passed the Easter Act, which provided that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the second Saturday in April, meaning that Easter Day would be between 9 and 15 April.
As with reform of the House of Lords, however, reform of the date of Easter has proved a lengthy process.  The Commencement Order required to implement the provisions of the Act has never been made.  The Archbishop says that negotiations with his fellow prelates should be completed within ten years and we will than have a fixed Easter; however, I wouldn’t bank on it.
In any event, there is much to be said for an Easter that follows the changing  patterns of nature and the appearance of  the full moon.  If Easter is about anything at all, it is about life and light.  What is it about our generation that we must always seek to challenge the established wisdom of our ancestors?

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