In sharing what seemed like a simple, informative item about Seder, I was met with much confusion and a charge of Anti-Semitism. It all began when I posted this audio on Facebook last night. With it, I quoted a priest friend:
“The ONLY ‘Seder” that celebrates the divinity of Christ is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is the New Covenant Seder instituted by Christ Himself at the Last Supper. Old Covenant Seder does not recognize Jesus as the expected Messiah.” ~Father O.
The questions with which I was met this morning were heartfelt but needed clarification.
“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…”
“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…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?”
This column, then, is an elucidation to assist us all in comprehending the significance of our actions within the context of our religious practices.
“Saint Thomas Aquinas asked, ‘Were the ceremonies of the Old Law, the Mosaic Law, ceased at the coming of Jesus Christ?'”
The enlightening answer, given in the audio? Yes, the Old Law was completely fulfilled and updated, so to speak.
“When we’re dealing with the worship of God our external actions must correspond with our internal beliefs.” ~Saint Thomas Aquinas
According to Father, this can be further illustrated by the way we behave in the Divine Presence, the following of the rubric by priests, genuflection and the laity presenting themselves in their Sunday best when attending the Holy Sacrifice of Mass.
In the days before our Savior sacrificed Himself for us, He and His family were indeed practicing Jews. In this context, the Passover Meal consisted of an animal sacrifice to God. While Jesus celebrated this way with His family (since He was a Jew and had not yet been made a HUMAN sacrifice Himself) this made perfect sense. There was not yet a Savior Who died on the Cross for us.
Now that Jesus has completed what the Jewish people began, we have a New Law and new way to celebrate His completed law as Christians – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If we go back in time and celebrate what people did before the fulfillment of the law, we are denying (in action) that we have a Savior Who completed the Law.
This assertion is not at all Anti-Semitic. This edict is directed at Christians, not people of the Jewish faith. We have much love and respect for the original Jewish people because their faith directly preceded and made possible the fulfillment of Christianity by Jesus. Yet just as people of the Jewish faith have their own religious practices and celebrations, we Catholics wouldn’t expect them to practice our Sacraments and ceremonies. We simply no longer practice as the biblical Jewish people did. We aren’t the same, yet we are an extended family nonetheless.
Historical Aspects of Seder and Passover
As the Council of Trent proclaims, Jesus instituted the New Passover – He is the Lamb of God. If some claim affinity to a ‘Christianized celebration of the Passover meal, they should realize that the Holy Sacrifice of Mass is the Christianized celebration of the Passover meal – given to us by Christ Jesus Himself.
Historically, we must also realize that the Rabbinic Judaism of today is not the Judaism of the Bible. The Temple is gone and the biblical Jewish priesthood is gone. Not until the end of the first century did Rabbinic Judaism come into existence. This religion is actually younger than Catholicism. So following their worship practices is problematic in this regard as well.
Moral theology books cite a specific (yet commonly misunderstood) form of superstition. The superstition of False Worship – encompassing either the ‘false worship of the True God or the true worship of a false god’. Clinging to a mistaken idea that we are celebrating something with which we associate Jesus, then, is a falsehood and encompasses the sin of the specific superstition of False Worship.
We are an Easter people. Our Christian faith teaches us that Jesus came ‘not to abolish the Law or the Prophets…but to fulfill them’. (Matthew 5:17) Therefore celebrating a practice that has been fulfilled by Jesus Himself, violates the command to worship only our Triune God. In celebrating a meal that happened before Jesus saved us by His death on the Cross, we are celebrating a pre-Jesus practice. Just as the Sabbath was replaced by Sunday worship, the Lord’s Day, we show by our external actions the state of our internal worship.
“The ceremonies of the Old Law, which foreshadow the New Covenant and the joys of Heaven, had to cease at the Advent of the New Covenant and other ceremonies had to be introduced which would be in keeping with the state of Divine worship for that particular time.” ~Saint Thomas Aquinas
Within the beautiful season of the Easter Triduum, we have the fullness of our Catholic heritage, given to us by Jesus Himself. What more could we presume to add?
Author’s Note 3-28-2018: For a more current discussion on this topic, please visit Passover: Seder Meals Are Not Catholic Practice (comments open).