This morning I read something by a rabbi, admonishing Christians not to do Passover Seders during Holy Week. It’s not our ceremony to do. (I came to the same conclusion myself a couple decades ago.)
But… We cannot altogether abide by this. Holy Mass is, after all, a Passover seder. Every Holy Thursday, to commemorate the Last Supper, we solemnly read a part of the Torah instructions which command the annual celebration of the Passover and the Seder.
Inquirers into Catholicism often ask a very good and honest question: How do you explain the transition from the “Old Law” or “Old Alliance” to the New Covenant? How do you know which Old-Testament laws remain in effect, and which do not?
A good question, since at Holy Mass today we hear Lord Jesus declare that He did not come to abolish the Law. But we also will read, in a few weeks’ time, the account of the Apostles determining that you need not undergo circumcision to enter Christ’s Church.
The most basic answer to the transition question is: The moral law expressed in the Ten Commandments remains in effect, since it is not just another written law, for one particular nation. Rather, the laws of the Decalogue pertain to human nature itself. On the other hand, the ancient Israelite ceremonial laws no longer bind us.
Ok. A decent answer. But not complete.
The Old Law requires the annual commemoration of Israel’s liberation from slavery, the Passover. Jews fulfill that fundamental law by ridding the house of leaven and conducting a Seder.
But that same “ceremonial” law binds us Christians, too. Just as much as “I am the Lord your God” binds us, and “Thou shalt not kill.” We must keep Holy Week and Easter. Holy Week and Easter do not constitute some kind of optional ceremonial vestige of ancient Israelite religion.
It was a Passover: Jesus of Nazareth came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. And it was His Passover—His suffering, His death, His resurrection from the dead.
This holiest feast will soon be upon us, and we must keep it. Not by pulling out haggadahs and fixing matzoh sandwiches with horseradish and charoset. But by celebrating the Church’s Sacred Liturgy with solemn attention.