On this date in the year 1582 the Catholic countries of Europe, and their oversees possessions, began using the Gregorian Calendar. The day before, by the way, was October 4th. In the year 1582, for Catholic countries at least, October 5th through 14th do not exist. Lost to the decree of a Pope.
The motivation for the adjustment was to bring the date for the celebration of Easter to the time of year in which it was celebrated when it was introduced by the early Church. The error in the Julian calendar (its assumption that there are exactly 365.25 days in a year*) had led to the date of the equinox according to the calendar drifting from the observed reality, and thus an error had been introduced into the calculation of the date of Easter. Because the date of Easter is a function – the computus – of the date of the (northern hemisphere) spring equinox, the Catholic Church considered unacceptable the increasing divergence between the canonical date of the equinox and observed reality. Easter is celebrated on the Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon on or after 21 March, which was adopted as approximation to the March equinox.
Protestant countries, naturally, were not quick to jump on the band wagon playing Latin hymns but eventually most of the world complied. England, and her colonies which included us at the time, didn’t get around to it until 1752. In 2016 it was adopted by Saudi Arabia.
Now a better question might be: Why are you writing about this in a pastor’s blog?
Because sometimes the only way to fix things is to make a radical adjustment.
Revising a calendar in use in Europe since 46 BC by chopping out ten days is a fairly radical adjustment; but a necessary one to remain true to what they saw as their obligation to God (the date of Easter) and reality (the date of the Equinox). This was not an easy thing to do, it caused and still causes, for historians at least, a great deal of trouble. It had been tried before in 1475. People had been noticing there was a problem for centuries. Some one finally made a course correction.
We do not like radical course corrections. They are scary and uncomfortable. Far more often we want to make little adjustments along the way. Sometimes that can work, but when the inertia of culture or history is against you it is not enough to nudge. We have gotten used to driving a car with bad alignment, we unconsciously make corrections to ignore the problem.
Its time for an adjustment.
What am I talking about?
Honestly, it could be just about anything.
Our abuse of the environment.
Racial and economic injustice and the gross disproportional distribution of wealth.
The health care system in America.
The education system in America.
The criminal justice system in America.
The marriage of religion to politics.
The marriage of science to business.
Any of them.
We need to be willing to have conversations about radical answers. Because the system will break, and is breaking. Something needs to happen.
We can either be willing to swallow 10 days in October or we can be happy with Easter on the Fourth of July.
*The Solar Year is actually 365.2422 days, the Gregorian calendar uses 365.2425 days or 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds, which is pretty good for 15th century math. In time we will have to deal with those missing 9 minutes and 48 seconds.