Passover: Seder Meals Are Not Catholic Practice

passover

passover

During a past Lent, I shared a seemingly innocuous and informative post about the Jewish practice of Seder during Passover. The resulting confusion and charges of antisemitism bewildered me. The catalyst? A fact-packed video by a Catholic priest, The Christian Seder Meal: A Violation of  the First Commandment and a blog link to another video by a Catholic priest.

Strong Reactions

Below are some of the questions posed by readers the next day:

“This post only breeds anti-Jewish thinking and does not allow Catholics to ponder the roots of our faith, the richness of our heritage. Jesus longed to eat this meal with us and Judas did not participate at all, which tells us something.”

“I think if you are of Jewish heritage then it is not sinful to celebrate the Passover.”

“I’m confused. I grew up with a Jewish mother and a Christian father. We celebrated everything. Christmas and Hanukkah as well as occasionally Passover (it’s a lot harder to pull off successfully, so we didn’t do it every year). I was technically Jewish before I was baptized 5 years ago. I still like keeping some of our Jewish traditions alive, and teaching my kids about them as part of our history and heritage. We are actually planning to drive 4 hours tomorrow to go to my rabbi uncle’s house for Passover so my kids can experience a REAL Passover. This is something sinful? My family is expecting us. Should we cancel? Go to confession? If we have honest Jewish heritage, is that different?”

Passover Question and Answer

In order to address these concerns, listen as Father explains in the presentation audio cited above. In the same vein, Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae  queried,  “Were the ceremonies of the Old Law, the Mosaic Law, ceased at the coming of Jesus Christ?”

The answer? Yes, the Old Law was completely fulfilled and updated, so to speak. It is important to note that, when dealing with the worship of God, our external actions must correspond with our internal beliefs. This can be further illustrated by our actions when in the Divine Presence, the Rubrics followed by priests and presenting our best selves when attending the Holy Sacrifice of Mass. With adherence to the prescribed gestures and behavior of our Faith, we exemplify our deeply held belief in God and His Church.

The Old Law

From Holy Scripture, we learn about the commands concerning Passover. The people are told to sacrifice a perfect year-old lamb for each household or to combine households if the members are too few. Their instructions follow:

“Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door-frames of the houses where they eat the lambs.” Exodus 12:6-7

After the prescribed days have passed, and the blood has been applied, the instructions continue. The people art to share the meat among those in their household group. All of it is to be consumed and even the manner it is cooked and eaten is prescribed. Woe to those who fail.

 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” Exodus 12:12

Instructions for non-Jews are explicit in Exodus as well,

No foreigner may eat it. Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it.”

What we see here is the Old Law and the old sacrificial Lamb. A law that foreshadows what is to come and the coming of a new Lamb and a New Covenant that completes the old.

Seder Meal Explained

The practice of Seder, then, is according to the Old Law and consisted of an animal sacrifice to God. Accordingly, Jesus and His family celebrated Seder during Passover. Since he was a Jew and had not yet been made a HUMAN sacrifice Himself, this made perfect sense. There was no Savior Who died on the Cross yet.

Since the Seder meal is a Jewish practice, refraining from co-opting Jewish devotions is not Antisemitic. It is the opposite. Refraining from a Jewish practice according to the Old Law prevents its practice from becoming a mere novelty. Similarly, we do not expect Jews to practice devotions according to the New Covenant. As Catholic Christians, we realize that Jesus practiced Seder as part of a family of practicing Jews. When He died for us and became the Fulfillment of Jewish law. When he had completed his own HUMAN sacrifice, He gave us a New Covenant. From that time on, we are to move forward with what He prescribed.

Passover Is Jewish Tradition, Not Christian Tradition

Therefore, the Old Law was fulfilled and the New Covenant was initiated. With His words, “Do this in Commemoration of Me“, He instituted the Eucharist and instructed us in future worship. Going back in time and celebrating what people did before the fulfillment of the law, means denying (in action) that we have a Savior Who completed the Law. Having a Seder meal may run the risk of reducing this Jewish practice to a mere novelty.

Now that Jesus has completed what the Jewish people began, we celebrate His completed law as Catholic Christians. This is because, at the Crucifixion, He fulfilled the Old Law by offering Himself as the Lamb of God – the Holy Sacrifice. He is now the Sacrifice that fulfills the Old Law. The Old Law which was a foreshadowing of Who was to come as the ultimate Sacrifice for our sins.

These thoughts are directed toward Christians who are confused about Seder. People of the Jewish faith will, obviously, have a differing viewpoint. Those whose families comprise both Jews and Christians should probably discuss their concerns with a good priest.

We Are An Easter People

We love the Jewish faith because it directly preceded and made possible the fulfillment of Christianity by Jesus. Just as Catholics do not expect the Jewish people to practice our sacraments and ceremonies, so too, should Jews refrain from condemning Catholics for no longer practicing as the Jewish people did. We are not the same, yet we are a family nonetheless. Jewish history compliments that Jesus came to fulfill the Law. There is a beauty to be found in the historical similarities we find.

In celebrating a religious practice that was relevant before Jesus saved us by His death on the Cross, we are celebrating a pre-Jesus devotion.

We are an Easter people. Our Christian faith teaches us that Jesus came ‘not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it’. Therefore, practicing an ancient Jewish devotion, fulfilled by Jesus Himself, goes directly against the command to worship only our Triune God.

Author’s Note: 

For further insight I would like to point you, dear readers, toward a Vatican document that touches on the relationship between the Jewish people and Christians (Catholics). It clearly states that our Passover differs from that of the Jews (emphasis mine):

“V. The Liturgy…2. This is particulary evident in the great feasts of the liturgical year, like the Passover. Christians and Jews celebrate the Passover: the Jews, the historic Passover looking towards the future; the Christians, the Passover accomplished in the death and resurrection of Christ, although still in expectation of the final consummation (cf. supra n. 9). It is still the “memorial” which comes to us from the Jewish tradition, with a specific content different in each case. On either side, however, there is a like dynamism: for Christians it gives meaning to the eucharistic celebration (cf. the antiphon ‘O sacrum convivium), a paschal celebration and as such a making present of the past, but experienced in the expectation of what is to come.”

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24 thoughts on “Passover: Seder Meals Are Not Catholic Practice”

  1. Pingback: Why Christians Shouldn't Celebrate Seder Meals - Catholic Stand : Catholic Stand

  2. I would like to invite anyone who still doesn’t understand why Catholics shouldn’t participate in Seder, or any other practices outside Catholicism, to listen to the excellent video linked in the post. We are to ‘act as we believe’. The Christian Seder Meal: A Violation of the First Commandment. https://youtu.be/npCz4eN9USI

  3. Robert H. Woodman

    Excellent post. I do think that as Christians, we need to understand our Jewish heritage, and we must show love and respect to all Jews because our faith grows from their roots. It has been very helpful to me to understand the Jewish roots of the Eucharist (thank you, Brant Pitre and Scott Hahn), but Scripture makes it clear that we Christians who have the True Eucharist have something better than the Passover Seder meal.

  4. Her’s is what a Rabbi thinks about we Christians and our Seder meals

    http://rabbibarry.wordpress.com/2007/04/01/the-passover-and-the-last-supper/

    I’d be in favor of Catholics learning Catholic Traditions but I know that reeks of Triumphalism.

    For only a few bucks, one can buy Dr. John Zmirak’s, “The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living,” and find PLENTY of recipes celebrating the lives/actions of Catholic Saints (His Guy Fawkes Day Celebration alone is worth the price of the book).

    I wonder how many Catholics who participate in a Seder (which wasn’t even created until seven decades after The Resurrection) have their families gather for special meals/rituals celebrating Christian events of Salvation History?

    http://www.datehookup.com/Thread-692488.htm

    http://www.sdadefend.com/MINDEX-S/Seder.pdf

    http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20080412&slug=glickman12m

    http://revdavidh.blogspot.com/2011/03/christian-seder.html

  5. I listened, while commuting to work, to CDs that a fellow parishioner loaned me of Father Isaac’s “Four Last Things” talk. I liked the talk. I was riveted. I felt like I was alone in a dark room with Fr. Isaac. I was sitting on a stiff wooden chair. Fr. Isaac was in a recliner with his ankles crossed and leaning slightly inward towards me – about five feet away. A dimly lit floor lamp was standing over his right shoulder, bathing him in a warm golden glow. He held a .45 and would alternate holding it in his right and left hands as he went through his talk. I’m pretty solid on the Four Last Things now after listening to that chat.

  6. Pingback: MONDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  7. Pingback: Passover: Seder Meals Are Not Catholic Practice | Newsessentials Blog

  8. Once again, the Church doesn’t understand that WE have been adopted into the Jewish line. When the Jews converted to Christianity,,they were not relieved of celebrating these festivals. Passover was given to the Jews eternally. I celebrate it gladly with them praying for their eyes to be opened to the True Messiah each time they celebrate it. We as believers can enjoy and understand how it relates to Christ. It is a beautiful time of 7 days of praying and fasting from yeast foods, until the final day of celebration!

    1. You are a Judaiser who thinks Christianity is tied to a particular race.

      Such a monstrous idea was condemned in Mit Berrender Sorge.

      When the Jews tried to make a similar claim _ We are the children of Abraham – Jesus said their father was Satan

      Try reading the New Testament some time. The Old Lawan dits festivsals have been rendered nugatory

    2. I would like to point you toward a Vatican document that touches on the relationship between the Jewish people and Christians (Catholics). It clearly states that our Passover differs from that of the Jews:

      “V. The Liturgy…2. This is particulary evident in the great feasts of the liturgical year, like the Passover. Christians and Jews celebrate the Passover: the Jews, the historic Passover looking towards the future; the Christians, the Passover accomplished in the death and resurrection of Christ, although still in expectation of the final consummation (cf. supra n. 9). It is still the “memorial” which comes to us from the Jewish tradition, with a specific content different in each case. On either side, however, there is a like dynamism: for Christians it gives meaning to the eucharistic celebration (cf. the antiphon ‘O sacrum convivium), a paschal celebration and as such a making present of the past, but experienced in the expectation of what is to come.”

      http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/relations-jews-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_19820306_jews-judaism_en.html

    3. Robert H. Woodman

      Your comment does not reflect Christian belief or practice. Gentile converts to Christianity have no duty or obligation to follow Jewish practice (Acts 15). St. Paul explicitly condemned the Judaizers in several places, including Galatians 5.

  9. Of course the Seder is not a Catholic ritual …. but is does commemorate an event of our brothers and sisters of the first of the three Abrahamic religions. There is nothing wrong with participating in a Seder meal, there is nothing wrong with reading the Old Testament, honor our ancestor religion which foretold of the new religion. As a Jew, I am sure that Jesus participated in many Seder meals and commemorations of the the Exodus …. allow people to honor it.

    1. balderdash.

      The Seder (Order) was not even completely codified during the life of Christ and it was only after His Death and REsurrection that the Rabbinical Jews codified it

    2. Surely you don’t think that there is an objection to remembering our Jewish roots? If that is the case you are mistaken. The roots and rich, ancient history of our Catholic Faith is very important to who we are today – after all, Jesus was a Jew. But when He came, He fulfilled what was foreshadowed in the Old Testament. His own Words testify to His coming to fulfill. Yet, celebrating what preceded Him is to cast aside what He became – the Pascal Lamb, the Ultimate Sacrifice, and the New Covenant.

      You may also be confusing the celebration vs. learning about our Jewish roots as Catholics.

    3. The Passover Meal was a Mosaic Law requirement for the Israelites (Exodus 12) consisting of the sacrificial lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Without a temple, the Israelites were not permitted by Law (Deut 12:13-14) to bring sacrifices), hence no more obligation for Passover meals after 70 AD. Seder therefore is a Rabbinic Jewish tradition human tradition), similar to the American thanksgiving meal because it could never equate to the Passover Meal.

      For Catholics, if a Passover Meal were possible, there would not be any law violation because it is the God of Abraham who is being commemorated. Remember, Jesus said “Before Abraham, I AM”, hence we would be commemorating the same one God.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I find that many people seem to enjoy the novelty of other religions more than the rich history of our own One Holy Apostolic Catholic Church – begun by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. I cannot understand it.

    2. The Church should be very sensitive to the Jews, God’s Chosen People. The Pope sided with Hitler and for that not even enough forgiveness and amends has been made to them. DO NOT lessen the God given festivals they are commanded to celebrate.

    3. Balderdash.

      The Pope did not side with Hitler and he has nothing to apologise for unless you think it is the job of a Pope to go to war with those who attack Jews.

      He had no army and German tanks surrounded The Vatican.

      The Jews are no longer the chosen people. The New Israel is – the Catholic Church

      Jews are not commanded to celebrate the festivals of the old law.

      You claims are UnChristian

    4. Robert H. Woodman

      The Jews are no longer the chosen people. The New Israel is – the Catholic Church

      Your statement above sounds like you believe in replacement theology (aka “supersessionism”). That’s not Catholic belief. For posts explaining this, see:

      https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9168

      https://www.catholicsforisrael.com/resources/faqs/234-does-the-catholic-church-teach-replacement-theology

      Jews are not commanded to celebrate the festivals of the old law.

      This statement makes no sense to me. A practicing observant Jew does not recognize Jesus as Messiah, and will, therefore, still consider himself or herself to be under obligation to follow the rituals and prescribed practices of Torah, insofar as he or she is able to do so.

    5. As I clearly stated (see quote below), this essay is not addressed to Jews. Of course, they would celebrate their own festivals.

      As for Catholics, we certainly honor our Jewish heritage but obey Jesus the Pascal Lamb, of Whom the Old Testament foretold, Who became the Ultimate Sacrifice, and brought the New Covenant. Now our worship is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

      “These thoughts are directed toward Christians who are confused about Seder. People of the Jewish faith will, obviously, have a differing viewpoint. Those whose families comprise both Jews and Christians should probably discuss their concerns with a good priest.”

    6. Birgit is right but so are you. I would be offended if they held a mock Mass. These nuts in the Church today. Oy, they are mashugana. Really though.

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