When Mum said we’d have to have our planned outdoor meal indoors as it looked like rain, Dad said, not to worry, it was a ‘moveable feast’! So I grew up thinking that a moveable feast was a meal you could take with you like a picnic.
In fact the phrase moveable feast comes from the Christian tradition where some festivals in the Christian year are not fixed, like Christmas, but have a different date each year, like Easter. I’ve often been asked why the date of Easter changes but the day is always the same – Sunday.
We know from scripture that Jesus died at the time of the Jewish festival of Passover and he was raised to new life on the first day of the week, Sunday, but we don’t know the date. Passover is also a moveable feast based on the cycle of the moon. By the 4th century there were four different methods of calculating the date of Easter so the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD agreed that the date of Easter should be calculated as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.
But even today Christians of different traditions celebrate Easter at different times. This is mainly because in the 16th century the new and more accurate Gregorian calendar was devised but Eastern Orthodox Christians still use the old Julian calendar to calculate the date of Easter.
Does the date of Easter really matter? Probably not in the sense that what matters is the awesome truth we celebrate every Sunday - that suffering and death and evil in any form don’t have the last word; Jesus is alive, risen from the dead and in him we have the promise of eternal life, whenever we celebrate it.
But I like the changing date of Easter. It may be inconvenient in our secular world, but this ‘moveable feast’ serves to remind us that the demands of faith are often inconvenient. And although the date of celebration drifts around March and April, in all the chances and changes of life, the Christian faith is anchored in the real, historical and unshakeable Jesus of the Easter story.
With prayers for many blessings this Easter.Christine