Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Paschal Moon

Last night, the full moon, the Paschal moon (from the Greek transliteration pasch of the Hebrew word for Passover, pesach.) appeared. The first night of Passover was observed by our Jewish brothers and sisters, and we look ahead to this evening's Maundy Thursday celebrations, and the remembrance that our eucharist rises out of the Passover supper, observed by Jesus and his friends, who were -- after all -- Jewish.

This moon has caused a deal of controversy in the Christian church, as early Christians struggled to determine the correct day to observe Easter. In the earliest days of the church, it tracked with Passover, but occasionally, Passover is celebrated before the spring equinox, and the church fathers decided Easter had to fall after the spring equinox. The formula -- roughly -- is that Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

But not always, and there have been debates about it through history as vigorous and vicious as the debates we now conduct over human sexuality. This Wikipedia article can tell you more than you ever want to know, including how Christianity in England abandoned its Celtic practices and became Romanized ... all over a fuss about the date of Easter (and how monks ought to cut their hair!).

I prefer to look into the sky in the evening, and think of a poem by American poet Anne Porter ...

In Holy Week

While we're asleep
The paschal moon is shining
High above the trees.

And high above the trees
Even while we're sleeping
Easter is growing
In the paschal moon
Like a child in its mother.

-- Anne Porter

+ Kit

Maundy Thursday service of Holy Eucharist with footwashing and stripping of the altar, tonight at 7 p.m. The night watch with the Reserved Sacrament begins immediately after the service.

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