Greek Orthodox churches in the Salt Lake area are celebrating Easter a week later than most other churches.
Holy Week services have been conducted throughout the week at the Holy Trinity Church, 279 S. Third West, and Prophet Elias Church, 5335 Highland Drive, beginning with Palm Sunday April 3. They will culminate with several services April 10, which is Easter Sunday for the Greek Orthodox community this year.Holy Trinity and Prophet Elias churches will hold a Divine Liturgy at 9 a.m. Saturday followed by Orthros, at 11:30 p.m., and a Resurrection Service at midnight.
Holy Trinity will hold Vespers of Agape at 5:30 p.m. Sunday followed by an Agape Party at the church.
Another Greek Orthodox congregation formed in the Salt Lake area within the past year, the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission, 1140 S. Ninth East, will hold a Divine Liturgy of St. Basil at 11 a.m. Saturday and a Resurrection Service and Divine Liturgy at 11 p.m. On Sunday, the mission will hold an Easter Sunday Agape Vespers at 4 p.m. followed by a community feast.
According to the Very Rev. Joachim Hatzidakis, dean of the Greek Orthodox Community of Salt Lake City, the question of when Easter should be celebrated began with the early Christian Church and remains unresolved.
The Julian calendar was devised in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar. Before that time, Roman religious officials had distorted the calendar so it differed from the solar year by three months. The Julian calendar divided the year into 12 months alternating from 30 to 31 days, except February, which had 29 days. To get things started out right, three months were added to the year 46 B.C., making it 15 months long, and the first Julian year began Jan. 1, 45 B.C.
By 1580, the calendar was 10 days off. Two years later, Pope Gregory XIII corrected the situation with a newly developed Gregorian calendar. Portugal, Spain and the Italian states accepted the new calendar immediately, but the Protestant German states did not accept it until 1699. The Gregorian calendar was not accepted by England and its colonies, including the future United States, until 1753.
People like George Washington who lived when the calendar was changed in America could have celebrated two different birthdays the actual date on the calendar and the actual time when a year had elapsed after their pre-1753 birthday.
Greece did not change to the new calendar until 1923. Many Muslim countries never have accepted it and tend to retain calendars based on Islam.
A date for Easter was set in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea. According to the Gregorian calendar, it is the first Sunday following the full moon on or after the vernal equinox, March 21. On this schedule, Easter Sunday may fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.
All Western Christian churches follow the same schedule. This year, Easter for Western Christian churches fell on April 3. Last year the date was April 19.
Eastern Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar and follow the admonition of the Byzantine jurist Ioannes Zonaras who, in the 12th century, said: "Easter is to be celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox, provided that the Jewish Passover has already been celebrated."
In 340 A.D., the Jews adopted a new calendar, which affected the calculations of the date of Passover. Hatzidakis said the Jewish religious calendar is different from either the Julian or Gregorian calendars and their Passover does not necessarily coincide with the Western Christian Palm Sunday.
And, since the Eastern Orthodox churches hold their Easter after the Jewish Passover, Easter can be celebrated in Eastern and Western churches as much as five weeks apart.