Orthodox Christians Observing Easter; the Ceremony Falls after the Jewish Passover, to More Closely Match the New Testament Account

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Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

For those who thought Easter was all over for the year, think again.

For Eastern Orthodox Christians, the big day is today.

Same day, different name.

"We call it Pascha, not Easter," said the Rev. Ted Pisarchuk, rector of St. Justin the Martyr Orthodox Church in Jacksonville.

Pisarchuk is talking about the world's roughly 250 million Eastern Orthodox Christians and their celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is called Easter in the West. This year, the Orthodox observance falls more than a month after Catholics and Protestants celebrated it.

That means this past week was Holy Week for the Orthodox.

The reason for the difference in dates, Pisarchuk and other First Coast Orthodox ministers said, has to do with Scripture, tradition and the phases of the moon.

The New Testament states that Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Passover feast. It was during that visit, the Gospels say, that Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified and resurrected.

So the Eastern church has historically tied its observance of the Resurrection to the Jewish holiday, said the Rev. Nikitas Theodosion, pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in St. Augustine.

"It can't be before the Passover because Christ came to Jerusalem for the Passover," Theodosion said.

In addition to following Passover, the Orthodox celebration by tradition comes on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring Equinox, Pisarchuk said.

With those conditions being met in March and Passover falling on April 23, May 1 became the date of Pascha.

"We are an Eastern tradition in a Western society and we are going to come up with some of those things, and what I find is it just gives us an opportunity to tell our story," said the Very Rev. …