Whose dating system?

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Fifth in a series

Many feel Christ will return soon. So many signs point to that.

The realization that time is short lessens the importance of theological debate. The time is ended for quibbling over small differences that do not affect salvation. We turn now to the central concern: Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your personal Savior? Has he claimed you as his own? Are you walking with him?

But as we wait on the Lord, we will briefly look at a question that is not critical to the celebration of Easter, but holds interest for those who enjoy knowing about church history.

The early Christians disputed over when to celebrate Easter. A Bible verse caused the commotion: And you shall observe this event (the Passover) as an ordinance for you and your children forever. (Ex 12:24) Forever is forever, so the Quartodeciman faction sought to honor this command by keeping the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection on the same date as the Jewish Passover. Others associated it with the newly established day of worship, Sunday. You can read more about this schism here, and here, that an early church father Irenaeus entreated Pope Victor in about 190 not to excommunicate the Quartodeciman churches of Asia Minor. The controversy was finally adjudicated at the Council of Nicea (though some churches today continue to honor the Jewish dating system in their commemorations).

In 325 AD, only a year after the Eastern and Western Roman Empires had been united under Constantine, bishops from east and west met in Nicea for the first universal council of the church, primarily to settle the Arian controversy that had arisen.

Constantine was the first Roman emperor to permit and to profess Christianity. Throughout his life he attributed his success to his conversion to the Christian faith. Some ancient documents that share the Nicean Council’s proceedings still exist, helping us to gain an acquaintance with Constantine. In the following excerpt, we see his enthusiasm over the successful Council:

Greetings, my beloved brothers! We have received a complete blessing from Divine Providence, namely, we have been relieved from all error and been united in a common confession of one and the same faith. The devil will no longer have any power against us, since all the schemes he in his hatred had devised for our destruction, have been entirely overthrown from their foundations. At the command of God, the splendor of truth has dissolved all the poisons so deadly to unity: dissensions, schisms, commotions, and the like. We all now worship the One by name, and continue to believe that he is the One God. In order to accomplish all of this, at God’s summoning I assembled a large number of bishops at the city of Nicaea, and I joined them in investigating the truth, though I am only one of you, who rejoices exceedingly in being your fellow-servant. All points which seemed ambiguous or could possibly lead to dissension have been discussed and accurately examined. May the Divine Majesty forgive the unfortunately huge number of the blasphemies which some were shamelessly uttering against the mighty Savior, our life and hope, as they declared and confessed things contrary to the divinely inspired Scriptures. (ref)

The Council of Nicea in 325 also established when Easter would be celebrated. Constantine wrote to the churches:

At the council we also considered the issue of our holiest day, Easter, and it was determined by common consent that everyone, everywhere should celebrate it on one and the same day. For what can be more appropriate, or what more solemn, than that this feast from which we have received the hope of immortality, should be kept by all without variation, using the same order and a clear arrangement? (ref)

Unity among the faithful was important to Constantine because he had witnessed the divisions caused by the Donatist controversy and he wanted his empire to be secure from divisions. Also, of course, Scripture encourages Christians to be as one (Ps 133:1; Eph 4:3-6).

Thus, Easter came to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox which was approximated to be March 21 by the Council. (It was several decades before the Alexandrine computations stabilized into their final form, and several centuries beyond that before they became normative.)

It’s somewhat astounding to think of an entire empire and all Christendom joining as one to celebrate Easter. I look for less allowance for this holiday in days to come, just as we have seen the erasure of Good Friday from the American calendar.

This blog series is about the special days in the Christian calendar celebrated by many protestants, however, Anglicans and other denominations today have more than the ones covered in these posts. The calendar dates of holy days leading to Easter are calculated, of course, by the Council of Nicea, and these are the ones we will look at next. Easter itself is not a Thanksgiving on a Special Occasion since those holy days are not observed on Sunday, as Easter always is.

The holiday that helps

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Fourth in a series

Continuing now in an exploration of Thanksgivings on Special Occasions, a “protestant permission” (see related post), we come to the days leading to Easter.

Any Christian holiday should magnify Jesus Christ. If it turns the spotlight from the Lord to any other thing, it is not a holy day. A minister has the work of helping the flock to renew their inner selves to love Christ more. How might that be done?

Here is a list that amplifies the ways that Jesus humbled himself, as Paul writes in Philippians, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil 2:8) Reading this list helped me to renew my mind and heart to worship God. It is taken from Pastor David Guzik’s commentary on the Philippians verse.

  • He was humble in that he took the form of a man, and not a more glorious creature like an angel.
  • He was humble in that He was born into an obscure, oppressed place.
  • He was humble in that He was born into poverty among a despised people.
  • He was humble in that He was born as a child instead of appearing as a man.
  • He was humble in submitting to the obedience appropriate to a child in a household.
  • He was humble in learning and practicing a trade – and a humble trade of a builder.
  • He was humble in the long wait until He launched out into public ministry.
  • He was humble in the companions and disciples He chose.
  • He was humble in the audience He appealed to and the way He taught.
  • He was humble in the temptations He allowed and endured.
  • He was humble in the weakness, hunger, thirst, and tiredness He endured.
  • He was humble in His total obedience to His Heavenly Father.
  • He was humble in His submission to the Holy Spirit.
  • He was humble in choosing and submitting to the death of the cross.
  • He was humble in the agony of His death.
  • He was humble in the shame, mocking, and public humiliation of His death.
  • He was humble in enduring the spiritual agony of His sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus Christ is worthy of our highest praise. If you are one who celebrates Lent or Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, did—or would— this list assist you to renew your adoration of Him? It was helpful to me in writing this post. We don’t need to wait for a holy day for a revived heart of praise for the Lord. Yet life becomes routine, and holidays help to refresh our spirits— when renewal in Christ is realized.

Just think of the consolations!

The consolations of God - Sixteenth and final in a series

The consolations of the Lord are all around us, above us, within, without, and continually or specially presented, surprising us or overwhelming our hearts by the particular understanding of his nearness and love.

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. (1 Ch 29:13)

The Consolation Passage:

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. (2 Cor 1:3-6)

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.


Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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