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7 August 2016
posted by Canon Dakin on 21-09-2016

The great Jewish feast was the Passover when they kept the anniversary of their liberation from slavery in Egypt. It is a solemn and joyful occasion with singing of songs and a suggested five glasses of wine. On the table there are various symbols. A lamb bone is a reminder of how they were saved - passed over - by the avenging angel through the signal of the blood of a lamb being sprinkled on their door-posts. In a dish there are bitter herbs - it could be horse-radish sauce - to remind them of the bitterness and hardship of slavery.  There is a mixture of apple, cinnamon, nuts and wine - a sign of the mortar used when they were forced labourers in Egypt. There are other meaningful symbols on the table. Otherwise, within a normal celebration meal, by question and answer, through readings and songs, the story is told of their great escape. The first reading at Mass this morning was inspired by memories of the passover supper long ago.

The same is true of the Gospel with its message of being on the watch during the night for the coming of Christ. The gospels were written, you remember, when the routine of Christian life was beginning to settle down. The great Christian celebration was Easter night, the night of the Jewish Passover, the anniversary of Jesus’ passing over through death to new life, the night of the resurrection when the faithful believed that Jesus would return to the world. So they kept watch all night until dawn when, through the Eucharist, they celebrated the presence of the risen Christ in their midst. An Ester vigil, to be authentic, should pass through the midnight barrier.

A Jewish passover supper is a most effective preparation for Holy Week because the Christian Easter has deep roots in the passover.  The lamb whose blood was sprinkled on the wooden doorposts has become the symbol of Jesus shedding his blood for us on the cross. He is the paschal lamb.  I have some friends who every year celebrate a passover supper at the beginning of Holy Week. If you should fancy gathering a few friends to share the same experience, I will gladly take you through it and supply copies.           



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