April Fools and Why is Easter When?

As I was walking down the street one day
A man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was
on my watch, yeah
And I said
Does anybody really know what time it is
I don’t
Does anybody really care
care
If so I can’t imagine why
about time
We’ve all got time enough to cry
Oh no, no

You’ll show your age, of course, if you recognize those classic lyrics by the 70’s rock back Chicago – back when bands actually had a horn section.

Or, remember typewriters?

“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aide of their country.”

Or — remember when there were only 3 TV channels (not counting PBS) and the nightly news always had that clackedy-clack sound of the busy typewriters in the background?

Okay, so I’m showing my age. But it’s never too late to be a fool.

So, how ’bout this: “Happy New Year!” (Uh, more on that later.)

Does anybody really know what time it is?

Yes, it’s that time of year again: Time when no one knows what time it is.

But it’s also time, most especially, for April Fools.

For the TIME being … let’s talk about TIME.

Most of us recently set our clocks ahead one hour. Why? Because our calendars said to, that’s why! I mean, did you have a say – a vote – in this loss of an hour’s sleep a few weeks back? Absolutely not. You were told by the news reader, your calendar, your teachers, bosses, even priests & bishops to:

SET YOUR CLOCKS AHEAD ONE HOUR BEFORE GOING TO BED ONE SATURDAY NIGHT.

Think about that a second. See, I can’t escape from using words like “second” to talk about time!

We spend a lot of time talking about time, and I say it’s about, uh, time that we get a little foolish …

Yes, it’s time for April Fools.

But more on the origin of April Fools, ahem, later.

So, here’s the plan, this year for April Fools I’m calling on all Orthodox Christians to ask questions like a Protestant.

You know how those outside of the Church are always asking questions like:

“Orthodoxy … hmmm. How’s that different than, say, Methodist or Baptist?”

And, if you’re like most Orthodox, you’re kinda stumped as to how to answer — not, necessarily, because you are ignorant about Orthodoxy. But, it’s just like: Gee … where to begin?

(Look at that – begin – another time word.)

So, this April my friends, beginning April 29th or so, go up to your Protestant friends and say:

“Hey Charles, what are you planning to do for Easter?”

Charles will most likely say: “Well, huh? You know we went to the beach over Easter break.”

Or, if he’s a churchy Protestant, he might say: “What? We celebrated Easter already.”

Then you follow up with: “O really. Why did y’all celebrate it so early this year?”

Now, face it, truth be known most people celebrate Easter according to Hallmark. That’s right. Whenever their wall calendar says the word EASTER, that’s when it is. (It’s like Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Day Light Saving time – if it’s on the Hallmark calendar, then that’s when it is!)

But, you my dear April Fools, can say: “Oh, I see, you celebrate Easter according to the Pope … right?”

That’ll be a good conversation starter with your Baptist friends!

But more on that later …

As an Orthodox priest, I often get questions from Protestant inquirers such as: “What version of the Bible do y’all use?”

(Orthodox, by the way, never ask this question.)

As a side story … a while back our parish librarian reported that two Orthodox Study Bibles had gone missing from the parish library. We looked everywhere. Then it dawned on me. I said, “Look! If Orthodox people are stealing Bibles … that’s a good sign!”

You know the old Baptist trick where the pastor stands in front of the congregation and says, “Turn with me now to Second Hezachiah Chapter 3 …?”

(I didn’t think so. Orthodox never get that joke. They always ask their neighbor: “What page?”)

Oh heck, while we’re at it — being fools this April –ask your Protestant friends how Peter died. They’ll most likely say that he was crucified upside down. Then ask them to show you where that is recorded in the Bible.

Anyway, when I’m asked “What version of the Bible do the Orthodox use?” I usually reply: “Predominantly the Greek, but millions use the Slavonic.”

Be creative this week, my dear April Fools!
For instance, on or about April 29th …

B-b-b-rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-ing …..
“Hello, Second Baptist Church …”

“Yes, uh, what calendar do y’all use?”

“I’m sorry … what? What calendar do we use?”

“Yes … I mean, do y’all use the Pope’s calendar?”

“Oh, no sir, we’re Baptist.”

“Oh good … well then, what time are your Easter services?”

“Uh … sir, we’ve already celebrated Easter on March 31st … but our Sunday service is at …”

And I was walking down the street one day
A pretty lady looked at me and said her diamond watch had
stopped cold dead
And I said
Does anybody really know what time it is
I don’t
Does anybody really care
care
If so I can’t imagine why
about time
We’ve all got time enough to cry
Oh no, no

Yes, we’ve all got time enough to cry.

But, why are we crying one hour later this month than we did last month? Why, in other words, did we all change our clocks, moving it ahead one hour?

As with all things confusing, we must start in France …

During his time as an American envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin, author of the proverb, “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”, anonymously published a letter suggesting that Parisians economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight. Franklin wrote a satire proposed taxing shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise.

The prominent English builder and outdoorsman William Willett invented DST in 1905 during one of his pre-breakfast horseback rides, when he observed with dismay how many Londoners slept through the best part of a summer day. An avid golfer, he also disliked cutting short his round at dusk. His solution was to advance the clock during the summer months, a proposal he published two years later. He lobbied unsuccessfully for the proposal until his death in 1915.

Germany, its World War I allies, and their occupied zones were the first European nations to use Willett’s invention, starting April 30, 1916. Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed suit; Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year; and the United States adopted it in 1918. Since then, the world has seen many enactments, adjustments, and repeals.

Source

In the end, changing the clocks is just good for commerce. But we really can’t change time can we?

The earth rotates on its axis, roughly 24 hours = one day. It circles the sun, roughly a 365 day trip = one year (365.24219 days, to be exact).

Then, how do we come up with the date for Easter – or PASCHA? And what does this have to do with April Fools?

First, Pascha. Anytime you ask someone who actually knows the answer to how the Orthodox date the annual celebration of Our Lord’s Glorious Resurrection , the answer leaves the following impression:

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, the vernal equinox … ZZZZZzzzzzz … carry the two … ZZZZZZZZZ … multiply by x to the third power … ZZZZZzzzzzz … add a Sunday … ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz …
I will not bore you with a full, exact and 100% correct answer (you can look that up on the Internet), except to say:

Orthodox tradition dictates that Pascha is celebrated after the Vernal Equinox (the first full moon of spring) which, for convenience, is dated at March 21st — but, according to the Julian Calendar reckoning, which is April 7th. Also, our Paschal celebration follows that of the Jewish Passover — and yet, the Jews have even had some calendar reforms which complicates understanding even more.

Which brings us to the origin of April Fools … and I quote from an article written by Fr George Kevorkian:

And I was walking down the street one day
Being pushed and shoved by people trying to beat the clock,
oh, so I just don’t know,
I just don’t know
And I said, yes I said

Oops, wrong quote. Here we go:

The historical origin of April Fool’s day actually deals with a very serious subject – the introduction of a new calendar. Ancient cultures as varied as the Romans and the Hindus had celebrated New Year’s Day on April 1, which is closely related to the start of Spring. In medieval times, much of Europe celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation. In 1582, Pope Gregory ordered a new calendar, which has come to be known as the Gregorian Calendar to replace the older Julian Calendar. This new calendar called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated on January 1, instead of April 1. Many countries, however, resisted the change for centuries. Those who had accepted the change began to refer to the resisters as “fools” and would send them on fools errands, or try to trick them. In 1752, Great Britain finally adopted the Gregorian Calendar, but retained April 1 as a day for trickery.

Fr George encourages us to become a different kind of fool:
As Orthodox Christians we are called to become fools to the things of this world, as a means of drawing closer to the things of God. We read in the teachings of St. Paul:

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19)

There is much “wisdom” in this world that we would be very wise to ignore. It may appear to be true, and even seductive, but this earthly wisdom denies God. Our only measure of true wisdom must be found in Christ, and we can only truly approach Him to the extent that we abandon the wisdom of this world that is in opposition to Him. It is in this sense that St. Paul calls us to become fools to this world, so that we may become wise to the things of God.

The Orthodox Church commemorates many Saints who took up the ascetic struggle of being “fools-for-Christ”. Two of the notable Saints are Andrew, Fool-for Christ-sake, and Basil, Fool-for-Christ-sake of Moscow. Both of these wonderful people led their lives appearing to be “insane” to the world as a means of putting aside the things of this world for the sake of drawing nearer to Christ. They wandered the streets of their cities hungry and half-naked so that they appeared to the world as outcasts. But in their “insanity” to this world, they became a consolation to others, and were given the gifts of prophecy and discernment.

It is especially relevant that this secular day of “April Fools” comes during the Orthodox Great Fast. In this Holy Season, we are called to turn away from the many distractions of the world, and to turn toward God. It is in this turning away from the distractions of the world that we indeed are called to become fools.

Previously published on the Antiochian webpage (copied here).

So, forgive me. I guess it’s not fitting for us, as Orthodox Christians, to act as worldly fools or to cause confusion during this time of April Fools because, even though the lyrics are 30 years old, they still hold true:

People runnin’ everywhere
Don’t know the way to go
Don’t know where I am
Can’t see past the next step
Don’t have to think past the last mile
Have no time to look around
Just run around, run around and think why
Does anybody really know what time it is
I don’t
Does anybody really care
care
If so I can’t imagine why
about time
We’ve all got time enough to die
Oh no, no

Time enough to die. How true. But, until that time — thanks God — we all have time enough to repent. Dying to self, repentance, turning to Christ, repentance, dying with Christ that we may yet Rise with him …

That’s really what time it is!

At this point in the Fast, as we hasten toward that Empty Tomb and the light of Pascha …

Forgive me if I get a little old fashioned and say: Happy New Year!

April Fools.

Image Source

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