Thursday April 13 – 6:00 pm – Paschal Supper, followed by Holy Eucharist, stripping of the altar, and setting of the “watch” in the Garden of Repose
This Paschal Supper is a Christian service representing Christ’s last supper, yet, there also is a deliberate attempt to preserve the spirit of the Jewish traditions and experience in the service, and to respect the faith journey of Israelites and Jews across the centuries. For that reason, apart from the fact that it will likely be Christians who are participating in the service, the thoroughly Christian dimension will come at the end of the service. After all, that is really how God chose to work in history: to the Jew first, and then also to the rest of us!
During the course of the evening you will have:
- four cups of wine.
- veggies dipped in saltwater.
- flat, dry cracker-like bread called matzah
- bitter herbs, often horseradish (without additives) and romaine lettuce, dipped into charoset (a paste of nuts, apples, pears and wine).
- a festive meal of leg of lamb, vegetables and gravy ending with macaroons for dessert
Each item has its place in a 15-step choreographed combination of tastes, sounds, sensations and smells that have been with the Jewish people for millennia.
afikoman: Greek, “dessert,” in ancient times the last morsel of the paschal lamb, eaten at the end of the Passover meal. In modern times, it is represented by half of the middle Matzah in the ceremonial Seder dish, which, when broken off, is hidden until the end of the meal. Adapted from some Jewish traditions, it also symbolizes the Messiah who will come to restore all things. In Christian Seders, this becomes the symbol of Jesus the Messiah (Christ), and is used as the bread of the Eucharist.
beitzah: “roasted egg,” in the Seder meal represents the burnt offerings brought to the Temple during festivals in ancient days; it also symbolizes the cycle of life, the endurance of God’s people and the hope for a future. Traditionally, a brown egg is used on the Seder plate, roasted in an oven until it turns dark. Vegetarians often use an avocado seed as a substitute for the egg on the Seder plate. While hard boiled eggs are often served as the first course of the Seder meal, like the zeroah the beitzah is not eaten since sacrifices are no longer offered.
chametz: “leaven” or “yeast,” the ingredient in bread that ferments and makes the bread “rise”by producing bubbles of gas in the dough. Its absence in Passover carries a dual symbolism. First, the use of unleavened bread symbolizes the haste with which the Israelites had to flee Egypt; second, it is often a symbol of corruption and sin, and so its removal symbolizes the freedom from sin that God brings.
charoset: derived from the Hebrew word for “clay,” a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon, honey, and wine which serves to sweeten the bitter herbs. Because of its appearance, it symbolizes the mud mixed with straw used by the slaves in Egyptian buildings. However, it’s sweetness symbolizes that the bitterness of slavery is tempered with the hope for a future. While the maror and matzah are biblical commands, the charoset was an element added by the rabbis.
dodi li: “my beloved is mine,” the first words of the traditional reading from Song of Songs (2:16), used as a title for the entire reading.
hallel: “praise,” refers both to the section of the Seder in which songs are sung, as well as to the songs themselves.
k’arah: a ceremonial Seder plate, sometimes very ornate, that contains places for the five symbolic elements of the Passover Seder: karpas (parsley), lamb bone, bitter herbs, egg, and charoset. On more elaborate plates, additional places are provided for other symbols, such as a place for a small bowl of salt water. In this Seder plate, space is provided for the chazeret, a second bitter herb used to make the “Hillel” sandwich.
karpas: “green vegetable,” garden greens, usually parsley, celery, lettuce, or other leafy green vegetable such as watercress used in the Seder meal. The greens are dipped in a small bowl of salt water, recalling the hyssop dipped for sprinkling on the door posts of Hebrew dwellings in preparation for the Exodus (Exodus 12:22).
kashrut: “fitness,” the Jewish dietary laws developed from the Old Testament and the Talmud; kosher (“proper”) identified those foods acceptable to observant Jews. There are a variety of laws governing which foods can be eaten and how they may be prepared, but the basic restrictions are: (1) no pork or pork products as well as certain other foods such as shellfish, and (2) no dairy products served with meat. Also during Passover there can be no food eaten that is made with yeast, baking powder, or baking soda. Today, many commercial foods are marked in various ways (for example, with a “K”) to indicate that they are kosher.
kippah: also known as a yarmulke, a close fitting hemispherical head covering or cap worn as a sign of reverence and respect for God. Traditionally worn only by men it is now occasionally worn by women in Conservative and Reformed groups. It is often worn during the Seder, especially by the leader.
maggid: “telling,” the section of the Seder in which the story of exodus and Passover are recited in various ways.
maror: “bitter herb,” traditionally a piece of horseradish root or romaine lettuce. A reminder of the bitterness of life in bondage, not only in Egypt, but everywhere. In the Seder meal, grated horseradish is usually used (at right).
matzah; plural, matzot: “unleavened bread,” dough made without yeast that bakes into a thin flat bread. Biblical tradition says that the Hebrews had to leave Egypt so quickly that they did not have time to let the bread rise so they made the dough without yeast or leaven. It is possible that they took the dough with them in kneading bowls and sun baked the bread on the hot rocks of the desert. There are various ways to transliterate this term. Today, Matzah is represented by flat cracker-like wafers. In the Passover Seder three Matzot are used, two representing the two loaves of bread that were placed in the Jerusalem Temple on festival days, plus an additional one for Passover.
mitzrayim: “Egypt,” although the origin of this Hebrew word is uncertain, some see it derived from the Hebrew word tzar (narrows, straits), meaning “from the narrows” or “from between the two sides.” With this understanding, some use the name Mitsrayim rather than Egypt in the Seder as a more generic symbol of persecution and oppression.
nirtzah: “acceptance,” the concluding section of the Seder marked by a prayer that the service will be accepted and the drinking of the last cup.
pesach: “passover,” used to refer to the entire Passover festival or more specifically to the Passover lamb. In the Seder, it refers to the roasted lamb shank bone that represents the sacrificial Passover lamb (Exodus 12:21-27).
seder: “order,” refers both to the service of the Passover festival meal that follows a prescribed order, and to the entire festival meal itself.
tzafun: “hidden,” refers to the “dessert” of the meal, which is a piece of Matzah that has been hidden (the Afikomen).
yom tov: “good day,” used to mean “festival.”
zeroah: “arm,” the roasted shank bone of a lamb that is symbolic of the Passover lamb, both the lambs that were killed in Egypt for the first Passover, but also for the sacrificial lambs offered in the Temple to commemorate Passover. Some Jews understand the bone also to symbolize the arm of God outstretched to help his people in times of trouble. Since there are no longer Temple sacrifices, no lamb or any other roasted meat is eaten at Passover. Some households use a chicken neck in place of the shank bone, and vegetarians often use beets to replace the shank bone on the seder plate, with the red beets and juice symbolizing the blood of the lamb that was used to mark the door posts of the houses.
Elijah’s Cup (kos eliyahu ha-nabi): In Jewish observance, this is an extra cup of wine displayed (sometimes at an empty place setting) to welcome the prophet of hope who would announce the Messiah’s coming. While left empty or untouched in Jewish observance, in the Christian Seder it represents the Cup of Redemption, the Passover, “shed for you . . . the forgiveness of sins,” and is used symbolically as the cup of the Eucharist.
Wine: The traditional symbol of rejoicing. “Wine to gladden the heart of humanity” (Psalm 104:15). Since many evangelical churches maintain an ethical position of total abstinence from alcoholic beverages, grape juice may be substituted. For a more authentic experience some of the newer carbonated “sparkling” non-alcoholic grape juices can be used.
Candles: The symbol of God’s presence at the ceremony. Usually two single white candles in candlesticks are used.