Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Is Earth Day The Same As Good Friday This Year?

Photo Credit: FlyingSinger
You have probably noticed that the Christian holy day of Good Friday and Earth Day, a day devoted to care for the earth, happened to fall on the same day this year, April 22nd. You may be asking yourself if this was a ploy by environment-alists to co-opt one of the most significant days in the Christian calendar or if there was some other reason for this occurrence? As it turns out, it is mere coincidence.

As you know, Easter does not have a set day each year, such as Christmas (December 25th) or Valentine's Day (February 14th). It changes from year to year and unlike other holidays that shift each year like Thanksgiving (which always falls on the fourth Thursday of November), there is a several week period in which Easter can land. So why does the date of Easter change each year? provides a simple explanation:
"At the heart of the matter lies a very simple explanation. The early church fathers wished to keep the observance of Easter in correlation to the Jewish Passover. Because the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ happened after the Passover, they wanted Easter to always be celebrated subsequent to the Passover. And, since the Jewish holiday calendar is based on solar and lunar cycles, each feast day is movable, with dates shifting from year to year. Now, from here the explanation grows more complicated.

Today in Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon date of the year. I had previously, and somewhat erroneously stated, "Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox." This statement was true prior to 325 A.D.; however, over the course of history (beginning in 325 A.D. with the Council of Nicea), the Western Church decided to established a more standardized system for determining the date of Easter.

In actuality, the date of the Paschal Full Moon is determined from historical tables, and has no correspondence to lunar events.  As astronomers were able to approximate the dates of all the full moons in future years, the Western Christian Church used these calculations to establish a table of Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates. These dates would determine the Holy Days on the Ecclesiastical calendar.

Though modified slightly from its original form, by 1583 A.D. the table for determining the Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates was permanently established and has been used ever since to determine the date of Easter. Thus, according to the Ecclesiastical tables, the Paschal Full Moon is the first Ecclesiastical Full Moon date after March 20 (which happened to be the vernal equinox date in 325 A.D.). So, in Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon.

The Paschal Full Moon can vary as much as two days from the date of the actual full moon, with dates ranging from March 21 to April 18. As a result, Easter dates can range from March 22 through April 25 in Western Christianity."
So, yes, it is not just your imagination that Easter was rather late for 2011. It is. This now brings our discussion to Earth Day and why it is on the same day as Good Friday this year. Since Easter is a movable date, this also means that Good Friday (recognized as the Friday immediately preceding Easter Sunday) is also movable.

However, Earth Day is recognized on a fixed date, April 22nd.  Created in 1970 by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day is celebrated by like-minded individuals that seek to demonstrate care and concern for the planet on which we live.  Since Good Friday fell later this year than usual, it just happened to coincide with Earth Day.  Sorry folks but there's no major conspiracy here to take away a Christian holy day.

What is interesting about this confluence of events is that there is a substantial portion of the evangelical Christian community that snubs its nose at any and all kinds of concern for the environment. I recall once sitting in a Bible study where one of the members asserted that our children should not be watching Barney because he advocates the "environment and stuff." I never did quite understand that argument. I don't want my kids watching Barney because those songs get stuck in my head, not because the friendly dinosaur encourages recycling.

On the other hand, there is a significant number of non-religious types that lift the earth and the environment up as diety and seem much more concerned about trees than actual human life. The Apostle Paul addressed this inclination to worship the created rather than the Creator in the first chapter of the book of Romans:
"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen."
Photo Credit: Onilad
As a Bible-believing evangelical Christian, I do not feel that I need to make a decision today on whether I should recognize either Good Friday or Earth Day. I can acknowledge both. On one hand, I celebrate the wonder of God's creation and seek to be a good steward of the earth He has entrusted to us. But today I also recognize the One who created the earth and the galaxies of the universe. Jesus Christ, who lived, died, was buried and rose from the dead, is the One who made it all happen anyway:
"The Son [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." ~ Colossians 1:15-20
I care about the earth but I care much more about the One who died for my sin.  So today when you recycle that newspaper or minimize pollution by walking instead of driving, don't forget to thank the One who gave you the eyes to read and the legs to walk.  But, most importantly, thank Him for his sacrifice on the Cross so that our sins could be forgiven.  A saved tree is nice but a saved soul is even better.

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