May 12, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

For our Meditation today I thought I would mention the difference between the date of Easter. Like Christmas, the Orthodox celebrate Easter later than the Latin Rite. The reason is that the Orthodox follow a different calendar than we do.

There are different calendars out there that people follow. We follow the Gregorian Calendar. Some people follow the Julian Calendar. The Mayans had their own calendar. Today the general calendar that is followed is the Gregorian Calendar, instituted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

Why the Switch? In 45 B.C. Julius Caesar developed a calendar to coincide with the Solar seasons. Before the Calendar was based on Lunar seasons. It tried to sync the earth’s astrological seasons. However, the method for calculating leap years was misdiagnosed. The calendar days became several days out of sync with the fixed dates for astronomical events like equinoxes and solstices. When trying to celebrate the Easter holiday, for example the current calendar was off.

To get the calendar back in sync with astronomical events like the vernal equinox or the winter solstice, a number of days were dropped. The papal bull issued by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, decreed that 10 days be dropped when switching to the Gregorian Calendar. However, the later the switch occurred, the more days had to be omitted. This created short months with only 18 days and odd dates like February 30 during the year of the changeover. Still, however, the Gregorian Calendar today is off by 27 seconds. By the year 4909 the Gregorian year will be a full day off the solar year. The Gregorian Calendar was first introduced in 1582 in some European countries. However, many countries used the Julian Calendar much longer. Turkey was the last country to officially switch to the new system on January 1, 1927. Currently (1901–2099), the Julian calendar is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar.

One of the objections to a transfer to the Gregorian Calendar was simple politics. People didn’t want to do anything that originated with the Pope. Though Pope Gregory’s papal bull reforming the calendar had no power beyond the Catholic Church, Catholic countries—including Spain, Portugal and Italy—swiftly adopted the new system for their civil affairs. European Protestants, however, largely rejected the change because of its ties to the papacy, fearing it was an attempt to silence their movement. It wasn’t until 1700 that Protestant Germany switched over, and England held out until 1752. Orthodox countries clung to the Julian calendar until even later, and their national churches have never embraced Gregory’s reforms.

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