Easter is the most important feast of the Church. Despite the popularity of Christmas, celebrating the birth of Christ, it is the Easter commemoration of his death and resurrection that brings the cycle of redemption to a triumphant conclusion. Its proper name is the Feast of the Resurrection, but popular usage has termed it Easter, which the Venerable Bede, in the 8th century, claimed was derived from Estre, a pagan Teutonic goddess of spring. Since there is no other record of her cult, that interpretation remains questionable.

In Anglo-Saxon, Easter was referred to as “eastron”, in the plural, because the feast lasts for several days or, as the Church would express it, the Octave of Easter. But if uncertainty surrounds the origin of the feast’s name, it dwindles into insignificance compared with the doubts and controversy that, for centuries, surrounded the date on which it should occur.