Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Russian theologian calls unified Pascha date "prospectless"

Moscow, June 16 (Interfax) - Protodeacon Andrey Kurayev, the famous Russian theologian, has described as "prospectless" a recent proposal by Pope Francis to introduce a single Easter date for all Christian denominations.

"The Pope's proposal to designate a single all-Christian Easter day is unrealistic," Father Andrey wrote on his blog.

In his view, the presence of the different festive dates "is nothing dangerous to the Christianity." The motives behind fourth-century Church's insistence on unity over the Easter issue are no longer relevant: "no one mistakes us for the Jews," he said.

"For the Catholics, the Pope's decision is self-sufficient, whereas the Orthodox Christians are still tied by their tradition, or to be more precise, the decision of the First Ecumenical Council. And if the question as to what exactly should be considered the vernal equinox day lies in the interpretation of the nevertheless recognized Council decision, establishing a fixed Easter day (the third Sunday of April) clearly runs counter against it," the protodeacon wrote.

A similar proposal for all Christians to celebrate Easter on the same day was made previously by Pope John Paul II but the idea was then dropped. A similar proposal was made by the Second Vatican Council in 1965, when Christians were offered to celebrate their main holiday on the second Sunday of April.

The difference in Easter dates stems from the different spring equinox days in Julian and Gregorian Calendars used, respectively, by Eastern and Western Christians, and from the Catholics' refusal from the rule of mismatch between the Christian Easter and the Jewish one (Passover). Before someone comments, yes, I know it is more complicated than this formulation.

In 1948, the Moscow conference of Orthodox churches decided that dates for the Easter and all movable feasts should be set according to Julian Calendar, and for non-movable ones, according to the calendar used by a local Church. Only the Finnish Orthodox Church celebrates Easter according to Gregorian Calendar.

7 comments:

  1. "For the Catholics, the Pope's decision is self-sufficient, whereas the Orthodox Christians are still tied by their tradition, or to be more precise, the decision of the First Ecumenical Council. And if the question as to what exactly should be considered the vernal equinox day lies in the interpretation of the nevertheless recognized Council decision, establishing a fixed Easter day (the third Sunday of April) clearly runs counter against it," the protodeacon wrote.

    I think that the protodeacon is over exaggerating the role of the Pope in this matter. It is not as simple as the Pope says X is the date of Pascha, therefore it is the date of Pascha. Even within Catholicism there is not uniformity on this issue. The Catholic Church is a communion of Churches and not all of the various Catholic Churches celebrate Pascha on the same Sunday. Many of the Eastern Catholic Churches still follow the Julian calendar. The Catholic Church is still informed and formed by Holy Tradition and, contrary to popular belief, the Pope does consult Patriarchs, Cardinals, Bishops, and Theologians and engages the Churches Tradition before making decisions/recommendations.

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    1. Nelson,

      The protodeacon is not exaggerating, as "the Pope's decision is self-sufficient" is simply an accurate assertion of RC dogma (see Vatican 1). All the "consultation" does not alter the fact that it is mere consultation, and that the buck stops with the chair, so to speak. It is also accurate to point out that the Orthodox do not have said dogma and thus a departure from the 1st ecumenical council will take at the very least another ecumenical council (actually, it would take more than this - it would take the acceptance/recognition of that council by the Church itself).

      You must be an "Eastern Catholic" yourself, as I have noticed a sort of defensiveness when it comes to such identity/self understanding. I can hardly blame you, as you live "on the border" so to speak and Vatican 1 is a major thorn in your side, so you "demphasize" it as much as you can. I think you have gone too far here however - the protodeacon is right.

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    2. The infallibility of the Pope is clearly defined by Vatican I and Vatican II. In the Catholic Communion the, as you say, buck does stop at the chair, the Chair of St. Peter, when it comes to matters of "faith and morals." The liturgical date for the celebration of Pascha, at least in my mind, has nothing to do with the faith of the universal Church. So, I fail to see how the Popes infallible teaching office would come into play when determining the date of Pascha.

      I as an Eastern Catholic accept the teachings of Vatican I and Vatican II. I prefer the more nuanced language of Vatican II.

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  2. This is completely nonsensical. The most likely way for this to be achieved is for the Catholic Church to simply adopt the Juilian Paschalion as it has done in the Holy Land and in at least some places in Greece (not to mention places where Eastern Catholics use the Julian Calendar entirely.) That's hardly prospectless.

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  4. Or we could simply agree to apply the formula of Nicea I.

    Of course that would require an admission that March 21 Julian is not the vernal equinox, nor has it been for many centuries.

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