It seems like important days should be fixed on the calendar. We always know when Christmas is going to be. There seems to be little doubt when we will celebrate the Fourth of July. And we always know when the most important day of the Christian year is going to be . . . or do we?
Why is Easter day so early this year? March 23 is the second earliest date Easter can begin. Easter as the central holiday of the Christian faith has always been an important time but what day is it? Easter Sunday is set by this easy to remember formula; it is on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21st. Why March 21st? Because it was the date the church understood to be the vernal equinox. This was a great compromise in the early church between those who wanted Easter to begin on the Julian calendar and those who wanted to stick with the lunar calendar.
Really though, I think it is good that it is hard for us to know on any given year just when Easter is coming. Easter should be a surprise! It is God’s greatest surprise after all. The idea that God loves us so much that life continues even after death.
So enjoy the early Easter this year, it won’t come around this early again until 2160 and if you don’t like an early Easter in 2011 Easter will begin on the second latest date possible April 24.