Easter and our human need to search for meaning and purpose

As every child knows with absolute certainty, Christmas is always celebrated on December 25th. There is no need to consult the lunar calendar, no complex formula whose intricacies must be worked out. You don’t need to know a thing about the Golden Number or the Sunday Letter to figure out when Christmas occurs. Christmas Day is December 25th and December 25th is Christmas Day. Simple.

Easter is a bit trickier, however, as it does not have a fixed date upon which it falls. Rather, Easter varies from year to year because it, and I quote from the Book of Common Prayer here, “is always the Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox on March 21, a date which is fixed in accordance with an ancient ecclesiastical computation, and which does not always correspond to the astronomical equinox.” This full moon can occur on any date between March 21 and April 18, and accordingly Easter Day may not be any earlier than March 22 nor any later than April 25. In 2024 Easter is on March 31. Easter has a bit of a nomadic character then, wandering around the calendar and never at home on any single date.

The wandering of Easter around the calendar is, I think, connected to our human need to search for meaning and purpose. In an age of smart phones and Google searches, no one needs to master the lunar calendar or the ancient ecclesiastical computations to figure out when Easter occurs. But if we’re asking Siri or Alexa to tell us when Easter is, the main thing is that we’re asking that question—and if we’re asking that question, then hopefully we’re open to an answer that has the power renew and refresh our souls.

At Saint Francis Ministries, our mission is to provide healing and hope to children and families. We work with children, families, and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in some of the most challenging times of their lives. That challenge can and does spread across days, weeks, months, and sometimes years—it is not bound by any calendar nor is it always simple to pin down. Our call to provide that healing in the moment and that hope for long term is grounded in and powered by the single greatest event of healing and hope in human history. Ultimately as a faith-based organization, our meaning and our purpose is found in the events we enact and inhabit during Holy Week, and which culminate in our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on that very first Easter Day.

To find Easter and what it means we, like our forbearers in the faith, make a pilgrimage that takes us from the Temple to the Table, from the Garden to the Fortress, and from the Cross to the Empty Tomb. In so doing, we discover that Easter isn’t about a fixed date on a calendar, nor even in the distant past, but the eternal unfolding of God’s unending and unconquerable love for us. I encourage you to focus less on the when and how of Easter in order that you might experience the what and where of Easter: deepened faith in our souls and renewed commitment to the people and world God loves!

It is my tremendous and joyful privilege, as the Executive Officer for Mission & Ministry here at SFM, to share a word of encouragement that connects the work of our 1,700 team members across seven states who serve 12,000 people annually to the One who lived, died, and rose again to new life so that all Creation might be renewed to health and wholeness. On behalf of us all here at Saint Francis Ministries, I wish you a most blessed and glorious Easter!

The Reverend Andrew O’Connor serves as SFM’s Executive Officer for Mission and Ministry.


Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer

Picture of The Reverend Andrew T. O’Connor
The Reverend Andrew T. O’Connor

Fr. O’Connor is the Executive Officer for Mission & Ministry for Saint Francis Ministries.

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