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Praying and working toward the common date of Easter: Bringing us closer to the imperative of Christian unity

In early 2001, the WCC Public Information Team asked knowledgeable representatives of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions to give a brief outline of their thinking on a common date for Easter. Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Egypt, contributed from the viewpoint of the Oriental Orthodox tradition.

09 April 2001

by H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette, Coptic Orthodox Church

At the dawn of the third millennium of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, in this year 2001 A.D., all Christian traditions - Oriental and Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant - will celebrate Easter at the same time.

Since Jesus Christ is the way, truth and life, He is the core of the unity of the Church.

It came to happen in the fourth century A.D. that the Churches were praying and working toward a common date of Easter. At the same time divisions occurred because of different views towards the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and His consubstantiality with the Father. At this very crucial stage the Nicene Creed was established at the first ecumenical council confessing that Jesus Christ is homo-ousion with the Father, i.e., of the same essence with the Father, consubstantial and co-eternal with Him. And it was at this Council of Nicea that both a common Christian creed and a common date of Easter were determined. The Church of Alexandria was mandated to determine the common date of Easter every year on agreed bases and to inform all the Churches worldwide.

Historically as well as theologically we can state that the person of the incarnate Word of God is the cause of the unity of the Church. The risen Lord is always a source of inspiration and renewal in our lives.

When our Saviour approached his passions, He said to His disciples: "The hour is coming, indeed it has come when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me" (John 16:32). "So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." (John 16:22).

The scattered disciples were united again around the risen Lord on the day of Easter, when he appeared to them as is written, "When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you. After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord" (John 20:19-20).

It is clear that the resurrection of the Lord wrought a radical change in the life of His disciples. The risen Lord is the source of power, joy, peace and unity of the Church. All we need is to be united with Him in the holy life of victory against sin.

All we need is to forget ourselves and see the risen Lord, who shines with His divine glory and enlightens our thoughts and our hearts.

All we need is to accept His divine love in order to love one another, and be united in Him.

It is the life of sanctification that will bring all of us together, so that we may rejoice and confess together the one holy and apostolic faith.

In early 2001, the WCC Public Information Team asked knowledgeable representatives of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions to give a brief outline of their thinking on a common date for Easter. Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Egypt, contributed from the viewpoint of the Oriental Orthodox tradition.