Easter comes just once this year

It’s rare for both Orthodox and Western churches to celebrate the holiday on the same date

steve.maynard@thenewstribune.comApril 20, 2014 

Melissa Dispaltro of Steilacoom looks forward to going out for Easter dinner today with her mother, Ada Dispaltro of University Place. The two rarely celebrate the same holiday because Melissa follows the Orthodox tradition, while Ada is a Catholic.

Easter will line up for them only once more in the next 10 years. Melissa wishes it were this way every year.

“I don’t think the Christian Church was ever meant to be separated,” she said. “The more we can do to unite Christians, the better off we are in general.”

The dates for Easter usually divide Christians from Eastern Orthodox and Western traditions. The two branches of Christendom use different ancient calendars, which usually results in the Orthodox date for Easter falling one or more weeks after the Western date. Occasionally they’re separated by more than a month.

Not this year. On Sunday, people from both traditions are celebrating this most important of Christian holidays.

Andrew Primis said that means he gets a year off from having to explain to confused friends why he observes Easter later than they do.

On the other hand, sharing the same Sunday for Easter can inconvenience families with a spouse from each tradition, said Primis, a member of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church on Tacoma’s Hilltop. They must decide whose relatives to visit Sunday, instead of spreading those visits over two weekends.

“It’s all about accommodation,” said Primis, president of the parish council at St. Nicholas.

Orthodox Christians say they often joke about how they’re able to buy discounted candy and flowers for their Easter, which they call Pascha.

No such luck this year.

St. Nicholas and Holy Resurrection Orthodox churches in the Tacoma area ushered in Pascha (which means Passover) during services at midnight Saturday.

Western churches celebrate Easter on Sunday morning, although Catholic parishes also held Easter vigils and Masses Saturday night.

For both traditions, Easter is the holiest time of the Christian year, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“For us, Christ is our Passover,” said the Rev. John Pierce, rector at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. “We pass from death to life, as the children of Israel have passed from slavery into the promised land.”

At the Midland-area church, Easter liturgy for about 175 people was scheduled to end around 3 a.m. Sunday.

“And then we have a bite to eat and go home,” Pierce said.

That snack marks the end of the Lenten fast.

St. Nicholas also observes a late-night tradition. At the stroke of midnight Saturday, the Rev. Seraphim Majmudar was to lead about 120 people who lit candles and sang in the darkened sanctuary.

The Rev. Seamus Laverty, pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Tacoma’s North End, said what’s critical is that both Eastern and Western churches celebrate the resurrection, not when they do it.

“That’s the important part,” Laverty said.

Both Pierce and Majmudar said settling on a common calculation for Easter is not a high priority for Orthodox churches.

“There’s so many other issues,” Pierce said.

Melissa Dispaltro, a Holy Resurrection parishioner, appreciates having a common Easter date this year. She was raised Catholic and later joined the Orthodox church.

She wishes everyone would celebrate Easter on the Western date, based on the more astronomically accurate Gregorian calendar.

Primis, however, puts the onus on the Western Church, which stopped using the old Julian calendar centuries ago.

“It would be nice if they tried to reconcile and decided to do the right thing,” he said. “We never changed.”

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647

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