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Passover started last night at sundown.

Like David mused earlier, it also bothers me a bit that the Christian calendar separates Easter from Passover—this year Easter was set an entire month before Passover. The two events are so inextricably connected, both historically and symbolically. The night before his death, Jesus celebrated with his disciples a Passover Seder, an observance that commemorates the Exodus. A significant aspect of the event is commemorating the night of the tenth plague, when the Hebrews marked their homes with the blood of a sacrificed lamb by which their firstborn were spared death—an event which heralded their exodus and freedom from their Egyptian oppressors and eventual entrance into the Promised Land. That Jesus’ last meal, death and resurrection should occur in conjunction with this event is beyond jaw dropping. It loads heaps of greater depth and understanding to God’s work and explosion of life and freedom in Jesus.

The first Seder I attended was in college, when our Old Testament professor arranged with a local rabbi to provide the meal for our class. It was a good introduction to the observation, but the most meaningful Seder I attended was with the family of a woman I worked for who was Jewish. As we went through the meal sitting with their children and relatives around their dining room table, they took the time to include and explain it to my husband and me. I remember feeling warmly embraced, catching an intimate glimpse into the recognition of and role of God in not only their family but also the whole history of a community. And throughout the meal I was continually and deeply moved by the significance of the words and the event in light of Jesus. It planted in me a sudden, rich and deep connection with God’s action in history. And that night continues to ripple into my understanding and musings on communion, community and “sharing a table” even today. I’ll be forever grateful to my friend and her family for including us that night even though we weren’t Jewish.

Each year at Passover, the memory of this experience makes me a bit wistful. I wish those of us who follow Jesus today had a greater connection and involvement with Passover. I know there are some Christian folks out there who recognize Passover in various ways—from celebrating it like Judaism to commemorating it with a modified version focusing on Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. But I suppose my sense of loss is more for us as a community than for my own family or experience. Not only does the disconnect in current church culture between the two events seem to be another example of our lack of a strong sense of historical connection to God’s revelation and interaction in the world (our spiritual heritage), but it also reminds me of how far we’ve wandered from the community and fellowship experience and expression which this body of Christ (ie, the people of God, the church, this living together in the Kingdom) started with.

But I guess that memory also makes me joyful and hopeful. It reminds me how much God is at work in this world from the beginning. It gives me a greater sense of his longing and relentless work towards bringing light and life to this broken world. And it tells me again that we are made to be a people who live and walk together with him in that work. And where God is, there is deliverance and redemption and life. And that gives me great, powerful, grounded confidence that he can and will see his people be who he has called and enabled them to be.

(Image: public domain via Wikipedia)


For what it's worth, Eastern Orthodox churches such as the one I attend celebrate Easter (or Pascha, as we call it) next week; today was our Palm Sunday. So the Jewish Passover does line up with Holy Week on our calendars, this year at least. I have a hunch that Easter tends to line up with Passover more often on the Eastern calendar than it does on the Western one, but I haven't looked in-depth into that yet.

Oh, and of course, the reason we call it "Pascha" is because that is what Easter is -- it's the Christian version of Passover, or "Pesach" as it is called in Hebrew. I have been told that Easter is known by similar words in every major language (in French it is "Pâques", in Italian it is "Pasqua", in Dutch it is "Pasen", etc.) except for English and German, where the words "Easter" and "Ostern" came to be used instead.
Carmen Andres said…
yeah, i envy you orthodox folks this year. and i'm encouraged by the fact that the celebration of jesus' resurrection is so closely related to Passover in so many languages. even the name itself would call to mind the history of God within our world. thanks for the heads up on that.