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EASTER CONTROVERSY

A protracted dispute in the second and third centuries over the date for celebration of Easter. The Eastern Church terminated Lent and began Easter celebration on the fourteenth day of Nisan regardless of the day of the week on which this date fell. The Jews celebrated Passover then, and the Pasch kept by Christ was also on that day. It was claimed that this practice was received from the Apostles Philip and John. The Western Church always celebrated the Christian Pasch on the Sunday following the fourteenth day of the full moon of the vernal equinox because it was the anniversary of Christ's resurrection. Westerners said that this tradition came from Sts. Peter and Paul. Schism was probably averted by the excommunication threat of Pope Victor I for all who would not follow the Roman custom. St. Irenaeus (130-200) pleaded with the Pope for leniency. Although the Eastern Christians did not comply, the controversy took a new direction when the Church of Antioch accepted the first Sunday after the fourteenth day of Nisan instead of after the vernal equinox. Disagreements continued until the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) paved the way for a final settlement by decreeing that Easter must be universally celebrated in the Christian world on the Sunday following the fourteenth day of the paschal moon, whose fourteenth day followed the spring equinox. The Roman Church adopted a cycle of ninety-five years for determining the Easter date, but the Celtic Church still followed a cycle of 532 years and the Sunday for celebration was different. By the ninth century the Celts conceded and the 95-year cycle was followed everywhere.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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