Lessons from the East

The Covington News - - Religion -

This Sun­day is April 20 on our cal­en­dar, but on the Jewish cal­en­dar it is also the 14th day of the month of Nisan — in other words, the Feast of Passover.

A c t u a l l y, since the Jewish cal­en­dar counts time from sun­set to sun­set, the Passover will of­fi­cially be­gin at sun­set Satur­day night.

The feast of Passover goes back to the time of Moses, mak­ing this event the old­est con­tin­u­ously cel­e­brated re­li­gious fes­ti­val in the world. Je­sus, of course, kept the feast of Passover with his dis­ci­ples in Jerusalem on the night he was ar­rested, (Matthew 26:17-30).

Sun­day is also cel­e­brated as Palm Sun­day by the ap­prox­i­mately 250 mil­lion East­ern Ortho­dox Chris­tians around the world.

The Ortho­dox churches in­clude the Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties that grew up in the Mid­dle East, Asia Mi­nor, North­east­ern Africa, the Balkans and East­ern Europe. They are the old­est Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties in the world.

The rea­son the Ortho­dox will be keep­ing this Sun­day as Palm Sun­day is that they be­lieve that Easter should never come be­fore Passover. They rec­og­nize that in the life of Je­sus the last sup­per came be­fore the res­ur­rec­tion.

So if Passover is this Sun­day, why did most of us cel­e­brate Easter on March 23?

The rea­son is that most of us are in churches with roots back to West­ern Europe, where the Ro­man Catholic Church set the cal­en­dar. The Ro­man Catholics had split with the East­ern Ortho­dox in 1054 A.D. in event called “the Great Schism.”

It was the Ro­man branch of Chris­tian­ity which spread through Europe, and they had their own for­mula for cal­cu­lat­ing the date of Easter — the first Sun­day af­ter the first full moon af­ter the spring equinox, I think. West­ern Chris­tian­ity has fol­lowed the lead the Ro­man Catholic Church, con­se­quently, most of us cel­e­brated Easter a month early this year.

“Who cares when we cel­e­brate Easter, as long as all Chris­tians do, in fact, cel­e­brate Easter?”

True, but here is the point. We Protes­tants and Catholics could learn a few things from the se­nior branch of Chris­tian­ity.

First, we could learn a bet­ter way for cal­cu­lat­ing the date of Easter.

Sec­ond, we could learn some­thing of the im­por­tance of mar­riage for min­is­ters.

The Easter Ortho­dox Church en­cour­ages men to get mar­ried prior to en­ter­ing the min­istry. Their prac­tice is very close to the words of the Apos­tle Paul, who wrote, “An elder should be the hus­band of but one wife,” (Ti­tus 1:6).

Sex­ual scan­dals are rare in the East­ern Ortho­dox Church, and the rea­son may well be their strong sup­port for mar­riage.

On the plane to Amer­ica Tues­day, Pope Bene­dict XVI said that he was “deeply ashamed” of the sex­ual abuse scan­dals that have shaken the Ro­man Catholic Church in Amer­ica.

He pledged greater ef­forts by the church to bar pe­dophiles from the priest­hood, and he said, “It is more im­por­tant to have good priests than to have many priests.”

The Pope was fly­ing west on Tues­day, but I think he needs to look east.

Good priests are not just born, they are made. The Ro­man Catholics would do well to adopt the prac­tice of the old­est Chris­tian com­mu­nity and to en­cour­age their young men to get mar­ried prior to go­ing into the priest­hood, be­cause the best way to pre­vent per­verted sex­ual prac­tices is to en­cour­age healthy sex­ual prac­tices among mar­ried adults.

John Donaldson

Colum­nist

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