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Moveable dates

 

The Church Year and the two cycles are based on a fixed calendar of Holy Days (Christmas is always on December 25) and a moveable calendar of Sundays and other important days which depend on the date of Easter.

Easter

In the Western churches, using the Gregorian Calendar, Easter Sunday can fall on any Sunday from March 22 to April 25 and the date change every year.  The date of Easter is defined as the first Sunday after the first (ecclesiastical) full moon on or after the (ecclesiastical) vernal equinox (March 21). 

The full moon is not necessarily an astronomical full moon and can vary typically up to two days either side.  Instead, it is the Paschal Full Moon which is deemed to be the 14th day of a lunar month which begins on or next after March 8, based on a 19 year cycle (the metonic cycle).   This defintion was set by the First Council of Nicea in AD 325, though was not finally adopted in Britain until after the Synod of Whitby in AD 664.

The years in the 19 year cycle are numbered - the Golden Number - and the first Sunday of the calendar year was given a letter according to its date, where January 1 was A, January 2 was B etc - the Dominical (Sunday) Letter.  The Golden Number and the Dominical Letter were used in tables to find the date of Easter.

There have been many attempts to fix the date of Easter, though a fixed date would not be acceptable as it would not always be a Sunday.  A UK law was passed in 1928, but never implemented, which fixed the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April.   A proposal was made by the World Council of Churches in 1977 to base Easter on the astronomical full moon following the astronomical vernal equinox, but has not been implemented.

Once the date of Easter has been determined, the other moveable dates for the year can be computed.

Advent

Count 4 complete Sundays before Christmas Day (ie if Christmas Day itself is a Sunday, there are still four Sundays of Advent.  Alternatively, find the Sunday closest to St Andrew's Day (November 30).  This is the First Sunday of Advent.

Epiphany

Epiphany is on January 6.  Sundays after this, until Septuagesima, are known as teh (First, Seocnd etc) Sunday of Epiphany.

Septuagesima (beginning of Ordinary Time)

With Easter Sunday as 1 - count back 10 Sundays.  Sunday 10 is Septuagesima Sunday, which is followedd by Sexagesima Sunday and Quniquagesima Sunday (or the Third, Second, and First Sundays before Lent, respectively),

Lent

With Septuagesima Sunday as 1, count 3 Sundays forward and then to the following Wednesday.  This is Ash Wednesday.  The Sundays following Ash Wednesday are referred to as the (First, Second, Third etc) Sunday of Lent, until you get to Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter sunday.

Sundays after Easter as known as Sundays of Easter.

Resumption of Ordinary Time

With Easter Sunday as 1, find the 9th Sunday.  This is Trinity Sunday.  Ordinary Time begins after Pentecost Sunday which is the Sunday before Trinity.  The Sundays after Trinity Sunday are known as the (First, Second, Third etc) Sunday after Trinity.

The four Sundays prior to the First Sunday of Advent are known as the (Fourth, Third, Second and First) Sundays before Advent.  The Sunday before Advent is celebrated as Christ the King.

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