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Does Lent Seem Early to You?

It should. This is the earliest date for Ash Wednesday since 1856 1913.

A little more information on determining the date of Easter (and therefore, the date of Ash Wednesday which falls 46 days before Easter).

The basic rule for determining the date for Easter is that it is on the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after March 21st. The beginning date, March 21st, was chosen because it is usually the vernal equinox (generally, the first day of Spring). This means that the earliest day of the year that Easter can occur is, of course, March 22nd. Also, because of the regularity of lunar cycles, it can never occur later than April 25th.

Now the ecclesiastical full moon can actually be at a different time than the actual astronomical full moon at least for various locations. This is a result of that confusing confluence of time and space that is known as the international date line. The full moon, at locations near the date-line can occur at the same time on two different days. Be that as it may, the ecclesiastics, perhaps wisely, ignore this anomaly.

The current formula for Easter's date was first developed at the Council of Nicea (convened by Constantine the Great) in 325 A.D. But it was then applied to the Julian Calendar (developed under the Roman Empire). Because there was no leap year to keep the actual year aligned with the calendar year, the date for the vernal equinox would seem to advance at a steady rate through the calendar over the years. Had not Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 executed a reform of the calendar that kept it steadily aligned with the actual astronomical year, Easter, being based on the vernal equinox, would also have lost all consistency of date.


If you like math, then here is a site that gives you all the numbers behind figuring out the date of Easter for both the Roman and Orthodox churches.

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You may be interested in getting some Lenten reading now since Lent is approaching so fast.


  1. I have seen anothe site claim we have the earliest date for Easter this year since 1940. I think, with leap years, I see how both that and your statement about Ash Wednesday could be true, but what is the source for these? Thanks for any help!

  2. That blasphemous skit on Utah Public Radio on January 7 did not originate with that particular radio station; rather it was produced and circulated by PRI (Public Radio International) an appendage of NPR (National Public Radio). The “skit” was given by a Ms Faith Sailey of “Fair Game” fame. The woman is supposed to be “Catholic!” One can only deeply bemoan the state of catechesis in the Catholic churches of our fair land. Our trendy bishops have a lot to answer for. Faith Sailey can be contaced via radio station WLRN in Miami, Florida (303-995-1717).

  3. I believe this is not correct, although widespread. Ash Wednesday this year is 6 February. In 1913, it was 5 February. The earliest possible date for Ash Wednesday, 4 February, last occurred in 1818.

  4. • Orthodox Christians have different dates for Easter than Roman Catholics and Protestants (including Evangelicals).

    It all started with the “leap year problem”, which was “solved” by the Julian calendar, implemented during Julius Caesar’s time. The problem of the calendar year not matching the earth’s revolution around the sun remained, however, because it takes the earth 365 days, 6 hours and 11 seconds to rotate the sun. The Julian calendar didn’t account for the “extra” 11 seconds.

    What did this mean? It means that about every 200 years, we “lose” 1 day with the Julian calendar. By 1500 A.D., on June 1st, it was actually June 7th.

    So, in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Pope Gregory XIII instituted the Gregorian calendar by papal decree, which added back in the 11 seconds. While it fixed the leap year problem once and for all, for some reason he changed the Easter calculation, which unfortunately created a huge problem for Christians; at least, for non-Catholic Christians.

    This is because every decade or so the Gregorian calendar’s lunar calculation puts Easter before Passover, which simply isn’t Biblically accurate. The Last Supper was an observance of Passover. Christ was the Passover lamb:

    1 Corinthians 5:7: Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

    Christians since the first centuries have celebrated Easter after Passover, just as Jesus was crucified in the days after the Last Supper. Of course, only Orthodox Christians today still continue to observe this apostolic tradition, as we have during the 2,000 years since the Crucifixion. We have ignored Pope Gregory’s decree.

    Does the significance of the date of Easter not matter? It must not to Catholics and Protestants. In that case, why not celebrate Easter in February, preferably on a Monday so we can have a 3-day weekend? Plus, the off-season travel rates to Disney World would be a lot cheaper! How about the middle of October? Does this sound ridiculous? Yes it does, about as ridiculous as celebrating Easter this year on March 23rd 2008, which is what Roman Catholics and Protestants will do, even though Passover doesn’t start until April 20th 2008.

    And please don’t compare the significance of December 25th with that of Easter. We have no idea when Jesus was born; but we know exactly when he was crucified and rose from the dead: during the days after the start of Passover. Again, Jesus was the Passover lamb. He was the sacrifice for our sins.

    You have a choice when it comes to celebrating the greatest event in Christianity: follow apostolic tradition as it has been for almost 2,000 years.

  5. Peter in Chicago,

    This is the kind of rant that is all too common on the part of the Orthodox. It is unbecoming of anyone bearing the name of Christian.

    BTW, I thought that this is the earliest Ash Wednesday since 1913, not 1856.

  6. Dear Pete, my Orthodox brother in Christ, I see that you are not fully educated in the Othodox Faith you profess. Let me correct your error – most Orthodox churches do not follow the Old Calendar, although the majority of Orthodox faithful do. In the world of Orthodoxy you hear the term “old calendarist” for just this reason. While the Orthodox have maintained Apostolic Succession and the validity of the Sacraments or the Holy Mysteries, they have not really upheld Apostolic Tradition any better than the West. Witness the squabbling between various Orthodox jurisdictions with regard to who or what is “canonical” or not – and the theological disagreements between various Orthodox bodies can be mind-boggling. This points to the reality that such a thing as the “Orthodox Church” does not exist. There are, rather, Orthodox Churches and sects – hardly a witness to the Church being “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic” – but that is entirely my opinion. May God bless you on your journey to Him – He who is our Life, our Light and our Salvation.

  7. Thanks for this article.
    Those in search of more detail may be interested in my article:

  8. Mike,
    While it is true that many, if not most, Orthodox follow the New Calendar, their date for Easter is always Old Calendar.

  9. What doesit really matter? Is itreally that important?

  10. Yo Pete, the Roman Catholic Church has the keys to the kingdom so what is loosed on Earth is loosed in Heaven…thus the Sabbath was rightly moved to Sunday. Pope Gregory therefore had the right and the authority to change the rules regarding observing Easter. The Roman rite commits no error. There is error in disobeying the Vicar of Christ on Earth. If you reject God’s appointed Prime Minister then you reject Christ. Therefore, where does the Orthodox authority come from? Remember, Abraham is the called the Father of faith because of his “obedience” and Satan was cast out of Heaven because of his refusal to obey.

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