Passover Thoughts
Published on March 31, 2007 By Larry Kuperman In Religion
“This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt; let all those that are hungry enter and eat thereof; and all who are in distress, come and celebrate the Passover. At present, we celebrate it here, but next year we hope to celebrate in the land of Israel. This year we are servants here, but next year we hope to be free people in the land of Israel."[/B] - Passover Haggadah

At sunset on April 2nd, 2007, the holiday of Passover begins. Usually Passover is said to commemorate the Exodus of the Jewish people from the long era of slavery in the land of Egypt. It is celebrated by Jews all over the world with observance and a ceremonial dinner called a Seder. The story has grown to have more universal implications over time.

The Last Supper of Jesus is thought by many to have been a Seder meal. Even those that disagree place the events during the week of Passover. As with so many parables, this is not accidental. The Quran narrates the life of Moses at greater length than that of any other prophet. The African-American spiritual song “Go Down Moses” evokes the plight of the Israelites as a comparison in a plea for freedom.

Who among us is not descended from slaves, from people that toiled in hardship? So perhaps it is appropriate that we all give pause and reflect on fortunate we are.

Every aspect of the Seder meal is symbolic and designed to remind us of where we came from. The word “Seder” means order or arrangement. The unleavened bread or matzo is eaten to remind us of the haste with which the Israelite people had to flee Egypt. They did not have time to wait for the bread to rise.

We drink wine at the Seder meal because wine is the drink of free men. We diminish our cups by ten drops to remind us of the Ten Plagues and that the suffering and death of the Egyptians is not to be remembered with joy. We eat bitter herbs to remind us of the bitterness of slavery, charoset to remind us of the mortar our ancestors used to build the works of Egypt.

For two thousand years Jews have opened their doors at Passover in anticipation of the return of Elijah the Prophet. Elijah is a sacred figure in the Bible, the New Testament and the Quran. At the Seder, a cup of wine is set aside for Elijah and the door is opened for his return. Aside from the Biblical meaning, Elijah represents hope that better days are coming.

Maybe we all need to give thanks for what we have and remember that we wouldn’t have it except for those that came before us. Make a stranger feel welcome, feed the hungry, help those that are still enslaved. Make the world a little bit better.

I have included a link to the Wikipedia article on the Seder meal for anyone interested.


on Mar 31, 2007
Many Catholics organize group Seder meals as a reminder of Christ's Jewish heritage. These are often held on Holy Thursday to commemorate the Last Supper. Thank you for this lovely summary of the significance of the Passover.
on Mar 31, 2007
KUPERMAN POSTS: The Last Supper of Jesus is thought by many to have been a Seder meal. Even those that disagree place the events during the week of Passover.

Thank you for writing about Passover and about the ceremonial Seder meal. Given that the Jewish religion as practiced today has virtually nothing in common with the religion of the Israelites of the OT, I'm interested to learn about the differences/similiarities between the Passover meals of the OT and on to Jesus' time as described in the New Testament as compared to the Seder memorial meal today.

As a Catholic, I'm well familiar with the role of this ritual meal in the life of Jesus especially because the Last Supper is when Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist. I've never heard the Last Supper called the Seder. In fact, the Last Supper was very distinctive from the Seder meal in that Jesus gave new meaning to the Pachal Lamb, the bread and to the wine. The Last Supper is remembered every year among Catholics on Holy Thursday, the day before Jesus died. With the awareness that His time of suffering and death was close, Jesus gathered with His Twelve and "eagerly desired" to share this special Passover (Pasch) meal. When it came time to bless and share gratefully the unleavened bread and the cup of wine, as their ancestors had done for centuries, Jesus did something different than the usual ritual. With tender love, He identified the bread, blessed and broken with His own Body, which was soon to be given up in death for all humankind. And He identified the cup of wine with His own Blood, which was about to be poured out in sacrificial love for all. Normally, participants in the Passover meal drank from their own cups. But at the Last Supper, Jesus has the them all drink from the same cup.

The Passover was the Jewish commemoration of the Exodus. The Last Supper, the first Eucharist took place in the context of the Passover Seder. At the Seder a ritually slain lamb was eaten. In Christian symbolism, Jesus is the Lamb of God, through whose death, (like the Passover lamb's)we come to freedom and salvation. Jesus, giving Himself, His Body and Blood, --in the Eucharist and on the Cross, pours Himself out for us like the lamb of the Passover.
In a sense, Catholics are united with Jews all over the world who celebrate the memorial Seder meal as in the Exodus you are liberated and given hope for new life.

KUPERMAN POSTS: Maybe we all need to give thanks for what we have and remember that we wouldn’t have it except for those that came before us.

I say yes to that with no "maybe" about it. I am especially grateful for the Jews because I believe without them there wouldn't be Jesus and without Jesus there wouldn't be Catholicism. We are all part of God's plan. The Last Supper is the origin of the Holy Eucharist and at Mass we believe in the presence of Jesus, we are united in love with God and with one another. Just as for Jews with Passover Seder on April 2nd, for Catholics, on April 4th, we celebrate the Last Supper, the great meaning of the Eucharist, which literally means "thanksgiving".

on Apr 01, 2007
Hi Larry,

Last year I spent more than a year studying all the 7 Feasts (Lev 23) including the Passover. What do you know of the afikomen? Where does that come from in the celebration of it? I couldn't find a clear answer on that one. I found a "Christian" explanation but am unsure why the Jews would have this in their ceremony.

Some other thoughts....this is what I found on the four cups taken at dinner. Do you agree or disagree?

The First Cup
Four expressions were used in Ex 6:6-7 describing His promised deliverance from Egypt.

1. “I will bring you out”
2. “I will rescue you from their bondage”
3. “I will redeem you”
4. “I will take you as My people”

Since wine is a symbol of the joy of harvest, four cups of wine are taken during the Passover service to reflect the fourfold joy of the Lord’s redemption. When the first cup is poured the Father asks everyone to rise. He then lifts his cup toward heaven and recites the Kiddush (prayer of sanctification):

"Blessed art Thou O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who createst the fruit of the vine. Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, Who has chosen us for Thy service from among the nations…..Blessed are Thou O lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us in life. Who has preserved us, and hast enabled us to reach this season."

Christ the leader of the Passover in the Upper room took this cup and gave thanks, Luke 22:17.

Second Cup
The second cup of wine is now poured and in response to the questions, a lengthy narrative recounting the Passover story begins. The story begins with Abraham and the whole retelling of how the Nation came to be. When the story comes to the 10 plagues a tiny bit of wine is poured out for each plague. Here is where the symbolic elements are carefully explained in the telling of the story. Before this cup is taken the first half of the praise psalms, the Hallel (Ps 113-118) is recited responsively. Hallel means “praise.”

The Third Cup
This is called the cup of redemption or blessing. This is where the Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper, Luke 22:20 shows it was after the dinner. . This cup Jesus chose to be a reminder of His work on the cross. After this cup, a child is sent to the front door to hopefully welcome Elijah. The hope is that Elijah will come in and drink his cup of wine and announce the coming the messiah. This comes from the hope in Mal 4:5.

The Fourth Cup

This cup is the cup of acceptance or Praise. This is the cup that Jesus said He would not drink until He drank it with the disciples in the Kingdom, Matt 26:29. He knew that the hour of his acceptance by His Jewish nation was yet future, and therefore His joy would not be full until then.

on Apr 01, 2007
Just to give you an idea. This is what I found on the three matzahs or the afikoman.

One tradition says they represent the three groups of Jewish people: the priests, the Levites and the Israelites. Another says that they represent the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Yet tradition is at a loss as to why the middle matzah must be broken. Why are the Levites to be broken or Isaac be broken and not the rest? Rabbinic tradition is silent on this important tradition.

The symbolism that fits behind this ceremony is that of the Godhead. As the three matzahs are one in the linen bag the one in the middle that represents the second person of the trinity is broken and wrapped in linen. Jesus was broken (died), wrapped and hidden away (buried), and brought back at the third cup of wine (resurrected the third day.)

The afikomen was not present in the time of Jesus. It was a later addition to Passover. Rabbinic tradition holds that the afikomen now represents the lamb and everyone must eat of it. This word afikomen does not exist in the Hebrew language. This is the only Greek word in the Passover Seder. Everything else is Hebrew. It is a form of the Greek verb ikneomai. The translation means "I came." How could this afikomen, if it speaks of Jesus, make it into this Jewish Passover when the majority do not accept Jesus as the Messiah?

During Pentecost three thousand Jews of Israel from many different countries believed. These believers would have taken the message of the Savior with them to their homeland. Many came to the Lord as a result of their testimony, Acts 21:20. They were talking abut Jewish believers in Jerusalem and numbered them in the thousands. Some estimate that by the end of the first century there were one million Jewish believers. This would have been a large enough number to send shock waves throughout the synagogues concerning the Messiah. Also with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD they were faced with a dilemma. Either they had to ceased this observance or change it.

In addition the new believers were already breaking away from the sacrificial system believing Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice and now incorporated the broken matzah into the service symbolizing the broken body of this lamb. This tradition may have been borrowed by others seeking to switch to a “lambless” Passover without even realizing the full significance behind the ceremony. So today in Jewish homes the most obscure ceremony in the Passover, the afikomen, is the one that gives it its greatest and most powerful meaning. The afikomen, “he came” has been an annual reminder that the true Passover Lamb has already come, 1 Cor 5:7.

on Jul 23, 2007
Thank you. I enjoyed it a lot.