Common Response to the Aleppo Statement on the Date of Easter/Pascha

North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
Washington, DC, October 31, 1998

 

  1. In March 1997, a consultation jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches, meeting in Aleppo, Syria, issued a statement "Towards a Common Date for Easter." The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, meeting in Washington, DC, October 29-31, 1998, studied this Aleppo Statement and reviewed reactions to it thus far. Our Consultation strongly endorses the Aleppo Statement.

  2. The Aleppo Statement rightly calls attention to the centrality of Christ's resurrection as the basis of our common faith. As "the ultimate expression of the Father's gift of reconciliation and unity in Christ through the Spirit," the resurrection "is a sign of the unity and reconciliation which God wills for the entire creation" (paragraph 5). Yet by celebrating the feast of Christ's resurrection, the Holy Pascha, or Easter, on different Sundays in the same year, "the churches give a divided witness" to this mystery, "compromising their credibility and effectiveness in bringing the Gospel to the world" (paragraph 1). The question of the date of Easter/Pascha, therefore, is not simply an academic issue, void of pastoral implications. It is a matter of concern in our own North American context. It has become an even more urgent issue in some parts of the world such as the Middle East, where Christians constitute a divided minority in a larger non-Christian society.

  3. After reviewing 20th-century discussion of the question of a common date for Easter/Pascha and historical background to present differences of calculation among Christians, the Aleppo Statement recommends:

    • maintaining the norms established by the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea (325 AD), according to which Easter/Pascha should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring, and

    • calculating the necessary astronomical data (spring equinox and full moon) by "the most accurate possible scientific means," using the Jerusalem meridian as the basis for reckoning.

  4. Noting that in the year 2001 the Paschal calculations now in use in our churches will coincide, the Aleppo Statement also recommends that, in the interval between now and then, the churches study and consider means to implement these recommendations.

  5. Our Catholic-Orthodox Consultation welcomes the Aleppo Statement's recommendations for the following reasons:

    • The Aleppo Statement does well to call attention to the continuing relevance of the Council of Nicaea--a fundamental point of reference for the traditions of both our churches--and in so doing, to reject proposals to establish a fixed date for Easter/Pascha.

    • As the Aleppo Statement points out, the Council of Nicaea was willing to make use of contemporary science to calculate the date of Easter/Pascha. We believe that this principle still holds valid today. Scientific observations about the cosmos reveal the goodness and wonder of God's creation, which he embraced in the incarnation of his Son. Moreover, to deny an observable truth about the world is to reject God's gift to us. As they witness to God's love for the world, our churches need to use the findings of contemporary science as did the Fathers of Nicaea.

    • The Aleppo Statement accurately presents historical circumstances relating to such matters as the Council of Nicaea's treatment of the relationship between the Christian Pascha and the Jewish Passover. The practice of continuing to celebrate Pascha according to the ancient Julian calendar has often been defended, by some Eastern Christians, as resting on a decision associated with that council prohibiting the churches from celebrating the Paschal feast "with the Jews." As scholars of both our traditions have very clearly demonstrated, this prohibition was directed against making the calculation of the date of Easter depend upon contemporary Jewish reckoning, not against a coincidence of date between the two festivals. In fact, a coincidence of Passover and Easter dates continued to occur from time to time as late as the 8th century. Only later, when the increasing "lag" of the Julian Calendar made any coincidence impossible, did the prohibition come to be misinterpreted as meaning that the Jewish Passover must necessarily precede the Christian Passover each year.

    • In short, we consider that the implementation of the recommendations of the Aleppo Statement would allow our churches to adhere more exactly to the mode of calculation mandated by the First Council of Nicaea.

  6. As the Aleppo Statement indicates, its recommendations will have different implications for our churches "as they seek a renewed faithfulness to Nicaea." For the Eastern churches, "changes in the actual dating of Easter/Pascha will be more perceptible than for the Western churches" (paragraph 13). The fact that the recommendations of the Aleppo Statement substantially repeat proposals already developed by the Orthodox themselves in connection with their preparations for a Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church should significantly enhance the Aleppo recommendations' prospects for success. At the same time, as the Aleppo Statement notes, in many of the Eastern churches adherence to their present method of calculation often has been a symbol of the Church's integrity and freedom from the hostile forces of this world. Implementation of the Aleppo recommendations in these circumstances must proceed carefully and with great pastoral sensitivity. The material presented in the Aleppo Statement can be of great help to these churches should they attempt to carry out this effort to be faithful to the great tradition of the Church.

  7. The Aleppo Statement is faithful to the decisions of the First Ecumenical Council regarding the date of Easter/Pascha. At the same time, it takes into account the contemporary situation, which calls for a common witness to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the central mystery of the Christian faith. Our consultation therefore urges our churches to give serious consideration to its recommendations.

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Teachings of Christ

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

Scripture

January 1, 2018
Circumcision of the Lord
St. Basil the Great
Vespers: Genesis 17:1-2, 4, 5-7, 8, 9-10, 11-12, 14, Proverbs 8:22-30, Proverbs 10:31-11:12,
Matins: John 10:9-16
Liturgy: Colossians 2:8-12, Luke 2:20-21,40-52, Hebrews 7:26-8:2, Luke 6:17-23

- Tuesday: 1 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Matthew 3:1-11
- Wednesday: 2 Timothy 4:5-8, Matthew 1:1-8
- Thursday: James 1:19-27, Mark 10:17-27
- Friday: 1 Cor 9:19-27, Luke 3:1-18

January 6, 2018
Theophany of the Lord
- First Royal Hour: Isaiah 35:1-10, Acts 13:25-32, Matthew 3:1-11
- Third Royal Hour: Isaiah 1:16-20, Acts 19:1-18, Mark 1:1-8
- Sixth Royal Hour: Isaiah 12:3-6, Romans 6:3-11, Mark 1:9-15
- Ninth Royal Hour: Isaiah 49:8-15, Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7, Matthew 3:13-17
- Vespers and Divine Liturgy of St. Basil: 1) Genesis 1:1-13, 2) Exodus 14:15-18, 21-23, 27-29, 3) Exodus 15:22-27; 16:1, 4) Joshua 3:7,8,15-17, 5) 2 Kings 2:6-14, 6) 2 Kings 5:9-14, 7) Isaiah 1:16-20, 8) Genesis 32:1-10, 9) Exodus 2:5-10, 10) Judges 6:36-40, 11) 1 Kings 18:30-39, 12) 2 Kings 2:19-22, 13) Isaiah 49:8-15, 1 Corinthians: 9:19-27, Luke 3:1-18
- Blessing of Water: Isaiah 35:1-10, Isaiah 55:1-13, Isaiah l 12:3-6, 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, Mark 1:9-11
- Matins: Mark 1:9-11
- Liturgy: Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7, Matthew 3:13-17

January 7, 2018
Sunday After Theophany
Synaxis of St. John the Baptist
- Matins: John 20:19-31
- Liturgy: Ephesians 4:7-13, Matthew 4:12-17, Acts 19:1-8, John 1:29-34

Thirty-Second Week After Pentecost
- Monday: James 2:14-26, Mark 10:46-52
- Tuesday: James 3:1-10, Mark 11:11-23
- Wednesday: James 3:11-4:6, Mark 11:23-26
- Thursday: James 4:7-5:9, Mark 11:27-33
- Friday: 1 Peter 1:1-2, 10-12, 2:6-10, Mark 12:1-12
- Saturday: 1 Thessalonians 5:14-23, Luke 17:3-10

January 14, 2018
Zacchaeus Sunday
- Matins: John 21:1-14
- Liturgy: 1 Timothy 4:9-15, Luke 19:1-10

Week of the Publican and Pharisee
- Monday: 1 Peter 2:21-3:9, Mark 12:13-17
- Tuesday: 1 Peter 3:1-22, Mark 12:18-27
- Wednesday: 1 Peter 4:1-11, Mark 12:28-37
- Thursday: 1 Peter 4:12-5:5, Mark 22:38-44
- Friday: 2 Peter 1:1-10, Mark 13:1-8
- Saturday: 2 Timothy 2:11-19, Luke 18:2-8

January 21, 2018
Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee
- Matins: John 21:15-25
- Liturgy: 2 Timothy 3:10-15, Luke 18:10-14

Week of the Prodigal Son
- Monday: 2 Peter 1:20-2:9, Mark 13:9-13
- Tuesday: 2 Peter 2:9-22, Mark 13:14-23
- Wednesday: 2 Peter 3:1-18, Mark 13:24-31
- Thursday: 1 John 1:8-2:6, Mark 13:31-14:2
- Friday: 1 John 2:7-17, Mark 14:3-9
- Saturday: 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Luke 20:45-21:4

January 28, 2018
Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee
- Matins: Matthew 28:16-20
- Liturgy: 2 Timothy 3:10-15, Luke 18:10-14

Feasts & Fasts

January
1 - Circumcision of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ
Feast of St. Basil the Great, Sunday Before Theophany, New Year's Day (Civil)
6 - Theophany of Our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ
7 - Sunday After Theophany
14 - Sunday of Zacchaeus
15 - Martin Luther King Day (USA)
21 - Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee
28 - Sunday of the Prodigal Son
30 - Synaxis of the Ecumenical Teachers and Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom

February
2 - Encounter of Our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ with Simeon and Anna
3 - First All-Souls Saturday
4 - Sunday of the Second Coming of Christ (Meat-Fare)
11 - Forgiveness Sunday (Cheese-Fare)
12 - Beginning of the Holy Forty Days Fast
18 - First Sunday of the Great Fast (Sunday of Orthodoxy)
19 - Washington's Birthday (President's Day) (USA)
24 - Second All-Souls Saturday
25 - Second Sunday of the Great Fast (St. Gregory Palamas)

Please pray!

"They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword...." (Hebrews 11:37a)

Please lift up in prayer all those who are persecuted and deprived of liberty, everywhere in the world. Please especially remember the peoples of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Niger - the whole Middle East and Africa - who are literal martyrs for Christ. Also the peoples of Ukraine. They are our brothers, for all are one in Christ.

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Theophany

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge sing praise to You: * "You have come, and You have appeared, O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Random Proverb

"He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself." (Proverbs 6:32 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

We ought to learn the virtues through practicing them, not merely through talking about them, so that by acquiring the habit of them we do not forget what is of benefit to us. 'The kingdom of God', St. Paul says, 'resides not in words but in power' (I Cor. 4:20). For he who tries to discover things through actual practice will come to understand what gain or loss lies in any activity that he pursues..."

St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1:A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 183)