Should Christians use the Passover Seder?

At Glosses from an Old Manse, Pastor Mark asks: “Should Christians Celebrate the Haggadah/Seder?”

I am against it.

The Brisbane Jewish/Catholic subcommittee has posted this statement. It concludes:

1 The Passover Seder is a Jewish celebration.

2 The study of the Passover is best situated within the academic framework of the study of Judaism. As the SIDIC document states ‘Christians can approach the Passover Seder alone or in groups and study its structure, read the text, explain the rites with the help of a competent person sensitive to Judaism. (1995: p3)

3 Christians may wish to attend a Jewish Passover meal when invited by Jewish friends. As stated in the notes on Nostra Aetate ‘One would then truly be guest of the Jewish tradition and faith by which the Church is linked by its very identity.’ (Nostra Aetate – notes 12)

In the spirit of mutual respect and understanding for the religious traditions of other people, every care needs to be taken not to appropriate the Passover ritual which rightfully belongs to the Jewish people.

I concur absolutely.

The Adelaide Archdiocese has a statement similar to this.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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7 Responses to Should Christians use the Passover Seder?

  1. I concur too [you didn’t mention that ;0)].
    I do think even the enactment of a seder for historical-educational purposes, as the LCA COW statement seems to permit, is likely to be offensive to Jewish sensibilities, and therefore should be avoided. As your referenced statement suggests, David, the best option is to wrangle an invitation to the real thing!

  2. Stephen K says:

    I also agree with you David, Mark and Adelaide. Many years ago, my friends and I had the custom of singing and participating at the Holy Week retreat run by Carmelites. It was there I attended my first “Seder” meal on Holy Thursday. It was not the last. I thought then how moving the experience was and felt I’d gained insight into Holy Thursday, the Mass and other things. I thought no more about it until one day a priest I knew suggested it was disrespectful to Jews, along the lines you’ve outlined. I think it’s almost inevitable that any attempt to celebrate a”Seder” will be a “Christianisation” of a sacred Jewish commemoration, and thus be a thing, not just of offence, but even, perhaps, inherently sacrilegious.

    Christianity has deep roots in the Jewish experience of God, and Jesus was a Jew.
    But Christians are not Jews and cannot possibly feel, let alone own, the experiences and memories of the Jewish people and partake of their relationship with God. But, paradoxically, for this very reason, they understand and have a psychological connection with Jesus in a way I suggest no Christian can have (though a Christian has a different one).

  3. Tony Bartel says:

    Apart from not wanting to offend our Jewish brothers and sisters, there is a bleeding obvious reason not to celebrate a mock Seder meal on Maundy Thursday. English speakers usually forget that what we call Easter is called Pascha (or a word derived from the Greek word for Passover) in most languages. The Easter Vigil is our Passover, the occasion when we tell the story of our salvation. The Eucharist is our Passover meal. The Passover of our Lord from death to life is the fulfillment of the original Passover.

    The liturgy of the East and West reminds us of this. For example, the traditional Preface for Easter in the Roman Rite:

    But chiefly are we bound to praise you
    for the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
    for he is the very Paschal Lamb, which was offered for us
    and has taken away the sin of the world;
    who by his death has destroyed death,
    and by his rising again has restored us to everlasting life.

    Or the Paschal Canon of Saint John of Damascus:

    The day of Resurrection, let us be radiant, O peoples!
    Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha;
    for Christ God has brought us over from death to life,
    and from earth to heaven, as we sing the triumphal song …

    As a yearling lamb, for us a crown of goodness,
    the Blessed One, the cleansing Passover has been willingly sacrificed for all;
    and from the tomb the fair Sun of justice has shone for us again …

    Those who were held by Hades’ bonds,
    seeing your measureless compassion,
    press forward to the light, O Christ,
    with joyful steps, praising an eternal Passover …

    The holy women hastened after you with sweet spices.
    The One whom they sought with tears as a mortal,
    they worshipped with joy as the living God,
    and they proclaimed the mystic Passover, O Christ, to your disciples …

    O great and most sacred Pascha, Christ!
    O Wisdom and Word and Power of God!
    Grant that we may partake of you fully in the day
    that has no evening of your Kingdom.

    • Schütz says:

      Indeed. The usual parallel that people cite to Christians having a “mock seder” is Jews having a “mock mass”. But I was thinking just last night as I was riding home (and saw the huge new moon rising that signaled the start of Pesach and coming of Easter) that, as you point out, the real parallel is between the seder and the Easter Vigil.

      The Liturgy of the East has an Easter Vigil, does it not? But, correct me if I am wrong, I understand that the Copts and the other Orientals do not? Something about them not celebrating baptisms at Easter?

  4. Tony Bartel says:

    The Liturgy of the East has an Easter Vigil, does it not?

    About three to four hours worth, yes.

  5. Tony Bartel says:

    David weren’t you with us at Seminary when we attended an Eastern liturgy for Pascha (we thought it was Orthodox but latter found out it was Ukranian Catholic)?

    A kindly old Ukranian explained what was happening: “We go out from the Church, we walk around the building, we come back in and Christ is risen.”

    • Schütz says:

      Oh, yes, I remember it well. The “kindly old Ukranian” was, if I remember rightly, the mother-in-law of Overduin Jnr. It was a hell of a night too – pouring rain on the way home.

      What I was recalling in my question was a presentation some years back by a Coptic priest on their celebration of Easter, which I don’t think included any baptisms. I wonder what that is all about? Was there a divergent tradition between the Catholic Orthodoxy of the Empire and the Oriental Non-Chalcedons on this matter?

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