My family has two feasts each year: Christmas and Passover. Both are hugely significant. In some ways Passover is more special because I’ve never knowingly met another family that celebrates it – so there’s absolutely no commercialisation (not even presents – not even *gasp* chocolate!)
I blogged about our Christian passover ritual last year, and I’ll almost certainly blog about it again next year.
This year was unusual. My Mum was running a passover at her church, which meant I could either join her church for the day or do something completely different. Since I’ve recently developed a strong phobia of church and even church buildings (sad but true – although a Bible Study group still meets at my house each week), I decided to look at it as an opportunity rather than a barrier, and run my own.
It was actually quite special to run my own without my parents’ presence – it meant I could do things in whatever way felt best to me – instead of trying to recreate past Passover experiences. (For example, my parents have a script with questions and answers that we read aloud – but I just told people what things mean.)
Sidebar: Passover is a Jewish festival. According to the Christian Bible, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples just before he was arrested (Christians know that meal as the last supper). The reason Easter moves around each year is because it’s linked to Jewish Passover (which moves because it’s linked to a different calendar) – which is the Thursday night before Good Friday.
For better or worse, CJ and I celebrated our own version of Passover this year (with four friends who had never been part of a Passover ritual before). Be advised that I’ve blurred together several quite different rituals with information from google and my own family’s traditions.
As people came in, they washed their hands in a bowl of clean water.
All the ritual foods (except the lamb) were set out on the table:
In the centre is the matzoh bread – bread made without yeast, representing the hasty departure of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
Beside it is a full wine glass that doesn’t belong to any of the guests. It is called the Cup of Elijah, and it represents the expectation that Elijah will return. Many Christians leave it empty, on the basis that we believe Elijah has already returned.
On the right and left of the matzoh there are bitter herbs (I used mustard, ugh), representing the bitterness of slavery; and sweet charoses (a blended mix of grated apple, grape juice, cinnamon and crushed walnuts – yum), representing the cement used by the slaves to bind bricks together.
On the right there are boiled eggs, greens, and salt water. The eggs represent life and the perpetuation of existence. The greens (parsley) represent hope and redemption. Salt water represents the tears of slavery.
The lamb represents the lamb sacrificed and eaten at the original Passover. On God’s instructions via Moses, the Israelites put lamb’s blood over their doorways on a particular night. The Angel of Death passed over those houses – but killed the firstborn children of the Egyptians (note to self: don’t make God angry, particularly after being warned by Moses and by numerous miraculous plagues). That night, the Israelites were finally released from generations of slavery.
And on to the ritual. . .
We drank the first cup – the cup of sanctification.
CJ took the three pieces of matzoh, broke the middle piece, and hid it.
We ate the other two pieces of matzoh with the bitter herbs and then with the sweet charoses (putting the charosis in a matzoh sandwich to represent bricks).
We drank the second cup – the cup of deliverance.
We ate the eggs and greens (first dipping them in the salt water – they taste very nice that way).
We drank the third cup – the cup of hope.
At that point we served main course and dessert, and I took this photo of my friend’s seven-month old trying sweet charoses for the first time:
We drank the fourth cup – the cup of praise (which for Jews is the final cup).
At that point, with a teensy bit of help, our youngest guest found the hidden matzoh from the start of the evening and gave it back to CJ.
I personally believe that it was at this point in the last supper that Jesus (like CJ, the patriarch of the ritual) took the matzoh – the bread that was broken, buried, and then brought out again – and said, “This is my body broken for you. Eat this in remembrance of me.” I believe that he then took the Cup of Elijah and passed it around for everyone to drink saying, “This is my blood, shed for you. Drink this in remembrance of me.”
I believe that when Jesus was crucified the next day, he fulfilled the symbolic promise of the original sacrificial lamb of Passover – saving us from death and slavery to sin – and that the Passover ritual was designed as a supernatural foreshadowing of Easter. Because God knows his literary techniques.
Christians echo the bread and wine of Passover every time they take communion – but most don’t realise the fact that Jews celebrated this ritual for centuries before Christ was born.