A Catholic family can enter more deeply into the Passion of Christ by having a seder meal, similar to the Passover, or Last Supper that Jesus would have celebrated with his Apostles. With the knowledge that Christ has come and redeemed the world, we can incorporate a Christian attitude during the seder meal. At the beginning of the seder meal, a traditional Jewish blessing that also explains the origin of the seder meal and its history. Included here is the blessing with Christian meditations.
All gather around the table and stand quietly. The mother, or chosen hostess, lights a candle, since it is the Jewish mother''s privilege to light the Sabbath candles.
MOTHER OR HOSTESS: The traditional prayer of the mother in the Jewish family as she lights the feast day candle before the meal is this:
Blessed art thou, O Lord God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified us by thy commandments and hast commanded us to kindle the festival lights. Blessed art thou, O Lord God, King of the universe, who hast kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season. May our home be consecrated O God, by the light of thy countenance shining upon us in the blessing and bringing us peace.
FATHER OR LEADER: This is Holy Week, a time that joins for us the Old and the New Covenant. At this season the Jewish people celebrate the feast of the Passover or Pasch. More than 1,400 years before the time of Christ, the chosen people were suffering in slavery in Egypt. God raised up Moses as their leader and Moses tried to secure their release from captivity. Despite the hardships of nine successive plagues which God sent to them, the Egyptians still refused the pleas of Moses. Then an angel of the Lord was sent to strike down the first born son of every family; but at God's command, each Jewish family had sacrificed a lamb and sprinkled its blood on the doorposts. And the angel, seeing the blood, passed over their homes and their children were spared.
Then, finally, Pharaoh permitted the Jews to leave. They fled in haste, to wander amid the hardships in the desert for forty years before coming to the promised land. And God commanded Moses that the Jews should make a remembrance of their day of deliverance (Exodus 12:14-28). Thus the Passover became the great feast of sacrifice, of deliverance and of thanksgiving. Each Passover meal revolves around the retelling (the Haggadah) of this Providential act.
We who are the followers of Christ see the working of God's concern for His people. As God sent Moses to rescue the Israelites from captivity in Egypt, so He lovingly sent His Son to redeem fallen man from slavery to sin. By the sacrifice of Himself, Christ opened the gates of heaven to us.
At this time Christians and Jews celebrate their own feasts in their own ways and we can see in these celebrations the common bond of the symbolism of the Exodus. Jesus was a Jew and today we wish to draw upon the traditional Jewish Seder and the words of the New Testament to help us more fully appreciate Jesus'' observance of His Jewish heritage, whose laws He kept.
Matthew's, Mark's and Luke's accounts of Christ's sacrifice for us each begin with His celebration of the paschal meal:
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, ''Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" (Matt. 26:17) (see also Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7-9)
(Activity Source: Passover Meal, The by Arleen Hynes, Paulist Press, 1972
Taken from Catholic Culture)
Holy Thursday Meal Menu
Seder Meal Preparation
The room is prepared for a truly festive occasion. The table or tables are set with the best silver, dishes, linen and flowers. The children may make large banners on shelf paper of the Paschal lamb, breads on a platter, the Last Supper, phrases from the scriptures, chalices, loaves and fishes, brick walls to symbolize the slavery of the Jews, and marked doorposts or any other gaily colored symbolic pictures of their own making. In this way the children can enjoy a creative experience, decorate the home or hall and learn through symbolism. A wine glass (or grape juice for the young children) is set before each place.
The centerpiece is a white frosted cake, molded in the shape of a lamb, or an angel food cake whose circular shape symbolizes eternal life. A candle is placed at the head of the table.
The food for the meal is carefully prepared and served, announcing to all present that this is indeed a special feast. If possible, the menu contains the symbolic foods which are required for the feast of the Passover.
The Seder Plate
Jewish custom arranges on one plate the symbolic food used during the service. If the ecumenical gathering of family and friends is large, small bowls of these foods will also be placed at intervals in easy reach of all. On the Seder plate or tray are arranged several items.
The bone from the roasted leg of lamb is always at the Jewish table and may be on ours. It symbolizes the sacrificial lamb offered by the Israelites and was eaten on the eve of their departure from Egypt. Whether we actually eat lamb at this meal or not, Christians have retained the symbolism of the Lamb of God. (I haven’t gotten lamb yet – so I use chicken)
Matzos, in memory of the unleavened bread which the Jews ate when they were freed from Egypt. (If you cannot obtain Matzos use white crackers or pita bread, placing the whole sheet on the table so that portions may be broken or torn off.)
As part of our celebration, I put questions in front of the plates for the children to ask.
“Why are we eating unleavened bread, or matzah, tonight?”
I pick up the matzah, a flat cracker of bread, striped with narrow lines, and pierced with small holes. And I answer in the only way I know how, “Because tonight we remember Jesus. By whose stripes we are healed. Yeast leavens, or puffs up, as pride and sin inflates our hearts. Tonight we eat unleavened bread, bread without yeast, to remember Jesus who was without sin.”
I break the matzah in half and whisper, “Just like He was broken for us.”
Why are we eating bitter herbs?”
Lifting a small, silver spoonful of horseradish, I trace time’s prints back. “For on that long ago night, that night of Passover for the children of Israel, God said that ‘bitter herbs they shall eat’ (Ex. 12:8) and so we do too. To remember the bitterness of the cruel slavery of the Israelites to Pharaoh, to recall the bitterness of our relentless, ugly bondage to sin.”
My husband breaks off a corner of the matzah, topping it with the spoonful of horseradish and offers it to Hope. “But we eat the bitter herbs with the matzah to remember how Jesus, our Bread of Life, has paid the price and absorbed our bitter sins.”
“Why tonight do we dip our herbs twice?”
“Our fathers dipped hyssop branches into the blood of the Passover lamb, that they might mark their doorposts.”
He dips a parsley sprig into the salt water and continues. “As they wept salty tears for their life of slavery, they, in faith, painted the door lintels with the blood, that the Angel of Death may pass over. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”
He dips the parsley again, this time into a small glass dish of apple and raisins. “But now we have hope. Because of the blood shed by the thorns piercing Jesus’ brow. Because of the blood from the wounds of the nails, that we, in faith, mark on the door of our hearts. Now we wipe away our tears, for we have glorious, endless new life in Christ. We have been rebirthed into His hope.” (From A Holy Experience)
Bitter herbs, for the bitterness of slavery. Horseradish or spring radishes may be used. Haroses, a food made of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine, chopped and mixed together to look like the mortar which the Hebrew slaves used in their servitude. (I use applesauce)
Greens, parsley or watercress, used as a token of gratitude to God for the products of the earth. (Catholic Culture)
Water with salt added in another small dish is needed into which to dip the greens and bitter herbs. Recipe Source: Passover Meal, The by Arleen Hynes, Paulist Press, 1972
Taken from Catholic Culture.
The Lamb was killed so that the blood could mark the doorposts of the houses of the Israelites. When the angel of death saw the blood on the doorpost he would pass over that house and not kill the first born child. Jesus is our Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
(Taken from this site)
When you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord's death, until He comes again.
I Corinthians 11:26
This round cake symbolizes the sweetness of Eternal Life. The white color reminds us that we must strive for purity to attain it and the candles remind us of God’s presence.
This is a special time for us all. The kids always ask can we do this again next year!