April 04, 2007

[Updated] The popular mistake of thinking that the Seder meal we know today was the setting in which Jesus first gave us his Eucharist

[Update. I have added a further indication from the Gospel of John at the end of this post.]

From a Jewish website
The Passover Haggadah is the 'instruction manual' of the Passover Seder (a festive meal that opens the Passover holiday). The Passover Haggadah describes the order of events and rituals in the Passover Seder using a rabbinically-formulated and highly structured order of instructions that are organized into 15-steps.

…. In fact, there are over 3,000 different types of Passover Haggadahs in existence today. While the basic Passover story remains the same throughout all Passover Haggadahs, rabbis have encouraged the re-interpretation of the meanings of the events in the Passover story to both adapt to changing times and to reflect various political and religious philosophies within Judaism and to reach out to as many Jewish people as possible based on those reasons.

…. It was only in … the 9th and 10th centuries [A.D.] … that a stable form of the Passover Haggadah text was established.
The 9th and 10th centuries A.D.— meaning MORE THAN 750 YEARS AFTER JESUS first gave us his Eucharist!

W.W.J.D.— What Was Jesus Doing?

As both the Gospel and the Mass proclaim it, the first Eucharist clearly was NOT a celebration of the Jewish Seder.

Rather, DURING some kind of a Passover meal, Jesus interrupted, took bread ... and said:
“Take this … eat it. This is my body which will be given up for you.”
His words were a distorted echo of the directives in the Book of Exodus about eating the flesh of the Passover lamb.

THEN the Gospel and the Mass tell us that AFTER (NOT during) the meal, Jesus took wine and said, "This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant...." With those words he echoed NOT the Passover but the Sinai Covenant rite recorded in the Book of Exodus.

W. W. J. D.?

Not the Seder!

Subsequent Note.

The Gospel of John places the death of Christ on the day of the slaughter of the Passover lambs

John 19:14. "Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover...."

That means that in the Gospel of John the Passover began at sundown on Good Friday; and that the Last Supper was a day previous to that, making the Last Supper in John something other than a Passover Seder.


Blogger faithemmanuel said...

Could we not say in some sense that the Eucharist was indeed instituted within the context of the Seder meal and as a completion? Whatever "form" the Passover meal took throughout history we know the "matter" of it and this is very important with regards to understanding the Eucharist--the all-important, unblemished lamb. The lamb whose blood on the lintel delivered the Hebrews was replaced by the True Lamb of God whose blood is our Life in God. So when asked W.W.J.D. could I not be sure that He did it within the setting of the traditional Passover meal because it was the disciples who simply said "where shall we prepare the passover?"? He told them where he wished it but other than that it can be assumed that they did what they had done all their lives.
"When they had sung songs" Everything seems to be following a set cue with the exception of the Eucharist. It is the type of departure from traditional choreography that Christ is well known for and in true Christic fashion the old because it's meaning finally been manifested in a whole new sphere of reality. The memory of God's past love blossoms into an everlasting memorial of God's abiding Love. All in the shape of a "lamb that was slain"

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Bob Farrell said...

This looks like an appropriate topic for Myth Busters.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...


My post included:
"Rather, DURING some kind of a Passover meal, Jesus interrupted, took bread..."

7:58 AM  
Blogger Esther said...

Our parish's Seder is tomorrow night. We never attend though...

7:22 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

At sundown on Monday, April 2, Passover begins. That evening I will be a guest in a Jewish home for their Passover Seder.

I am looking forward to it.

However, I think it's really "odd" for Christians to put on a "Christian Seder". The Eucharist of Christ was an INTERRUPTION of the Passover.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

I can see how you might look at the words of Christ as they appear in the gospel accounts as an insertion into the celebration of a First Century Jewish Passover meal but I think one would be going to far in saying that the Jewish Passover and the theology that flows from it has no bearing in our understadning of the Eucharist.

If I understand correctly Jesus himself believed they were celebrationg an authentic Passover meal 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;' (Luke 22:15). And both the gospel writer and, presumably the disciples themselves found it important that the events of the Passion occured within the context of the Jewish Passover week.

I think we risk ignoring a good deal of our understanding of the the Mystery of the Eucharist if we take away this part of it's very real roots and say, "This has nothing to say to us". I see that what God began to reveal through the Exodus event, the Sinai Covenant, and the institution of the Passover Feast (itself a feast with far more ancient orgins than the Israelites in Egypt), finds it's logical completion and fullness of revelation in the context of a Passover instituted Eucharist and the events of the Cross and Resurrection which Jesus and the Gospel tradition so closly ties these meals to.

I'm sure you will agree that the context within which Jesus did things was many times as equally important as the actions and words themselves. Yes the words that instituted the Eucharist were an insertion (Rather than interruption...as you yourself have pointed out so well, rabbis have been inserting things -ideas and themes- into the passover meal for various reasons throughout the centuries), but they did not so much supercede or overwhelm the meal they were sharing, as reveal a certain depth of meaning to this feast that they had not been aware of before...a depth that would not become fully apparent until after the Resurrection.

Peace and God Bless and may you have a Blessed Triduum

2:15 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

I did not say "that the Jewish Passover and the theology that flows from it has no bearing in our understadning of the Eucharist."

As for the testimony of the Gospels regarding the Jewish Passover and the Last Supper, the Gospel of John places the death of Christ on the day of the slaughter of the Passover lambs

John 19:14. "Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover...."

That means that in the Gospel of John the Passover began at sundown on Good Friday; and that the Last Supper was a day previous to that, making the Last Supper in John something other than a Passover Seder.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

I do stand corrected in presuming that you mean to withold an understanding of the jewish Passover from our understanding of the Eucharist. Your title indeed is clear that 'modern' Seders have little resemblance to the Passover Jesus and the disciples celebrated.

Yet, like our Eucharist, they remain inexplicably linked to those more ancient meals. Certainly we would not try to suggest to modern Jews that their current Seders have no connection to First Century (or older) Passovers. In the same vein I am simply stating that it would be a mistake to deny a similar connection with the Eucharist. A connection that silmutaneously builds upon, and retains all of the context and meaning underlying the Revelations that preceed. I am familiar with a few modern Jewish 'Haggadah' outlines and to my mind there remains a close tie to the theology within the Eucharist.

I am also aware that St. John, alone among the evangelists, places the context of the Last Supper before the Jewish Passover. Of course it is always good to point out to those readers who may not be aware, that John had a firm Christological basis for doing this. His desire, as you no doubt are aware, was to show explicitly the tie between Jesus "The Lamb of God" (As introduced in the first chapter by the Baptist), and the Passover Lamb which, by John's lone timeline is being slaughtered for the Passover on the same day that Christ is Crucified.

I don't believe that John intended this to be read as an historical fact, given that the preceeding synoptics (at least a few of which he was no doubt aware of) all postition the Eucharistic institution well within the Passover Feast.

Peace and God Bless

1:52 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Three kinds of Biblical sacrifice are alluded to in the Eucharistic texts of the Gospels and New Testament:
(1) the sacrifice of a Passover lamb;
(2) covenant sacrifices;
(3) communion sacrifices ("peace offerings").

The elements of those three are preserved in Eucharistic theology.

A fourth kind is also alluded to, however it is a form of sacrifice that, in a limited sense, "leaves behind" the one who offers the sacrifice:
holocaust (completely burned).
A holocaust is an offering burned completely for God.

By contrast, a communion sacrifice burns part of an animal for God, but leaves part for the people to eat. The Eucharistic prayers retain this sense in that the Eucharist is first offered to God the Father before it is shared with the people.

The concept of a covenant sacrifice, especially "The Sinai Covenant", is the one I find the strongest in terms of the Eucharist-- but sadly the one that seems to be the most forgotten in terms of liturgical spirituality or piety. "This is ... my blood ... the new and everlasting COVENANT." How often we refer to the Eucharist, Holy Communion, the Body, the Blood, the Blessed Sacrament, the Mass ... but how practically NEVER do Catholics refer to it as "The Covenant." Paradoxically, both in the Gospels and at Mass, the first designation we hear from Christ himself is COVENANT, not holocaust (completely burned offering), not Passover, not communion-- though these are not lacking from the meaning of the Eucharist.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...


The structure of the Mass follows not a Passover Seder, but that of the order and elements of the Covenant Liturgy of Mount Sinai:
a "liturgy of the word";
then a "profession of faith" ("we will do" ... we will obey);
a "liturgy of covenant sacrifice";
and eating the communion sacrifice.

3:43 PM  

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