We have been celebrating Passover for more than ten years now. Our children have grown up in a home where it is the norm, and each year we have invited other people to join us. I thought I would share some of the ways our faith at home has benefited from observing Passover.
Stories are such an important part of our faith. They are so powerful. In the run-up to Passover we read or listen to the Exodus and Easter stories from the Bible. This is a great way to make Bible stories part of our regular faith-at-home life. Remembering where we have come from is so important to the development of our identity and, as Christians, remembering the ancient stories of God’s people helps ground us in the memories and experience of the nation into which we are ‘grafted’.
Exploring the ancient stories about God’s people enables us to connect our story to the much bigger, wider, older story of God’s people through the ages. As we explore the Exodus story we discover themes such as slavery and freedom–themes that are still very important for us as individuals, communities and nations today. The process of being set free, of leaving behind a place of hardship and entering into an unknown, is one that really resonates with me this year. Previously, it was the theme of passing through water that I felt reflected where we were at as a family. Each year it is the same story, but, as always, there are new ways to connect with the Bible each time we read it. By exploring the same story each year we can go deeper each time.
As a Christian celebrating Passover, the Exodus story has obvious links with the Easter story. Each year I read a little bit about Passover, the traditions around it and the context of the original story, and sometimes I research a little bit of Hebrew used as prayers or blessings in the Passover Seder meal. I find this brings greater depth and richness each year as I discover new resonances with the story of Jesus. For example, there are three pieces of matzah or flat bread during Passover. Traditionally there would be two pieces of bread at a weekly Sabbath meal, and the extra piece used at Passover represents the lamb that was once sacrificed in the temple at Passover. This piece may have been the one Jesus broke and said: “This is my body, broken for you.” Wow!
Observing rituals such as Passover helps us reflect, remember and be thankful. They help us find meaning and grow
Last year I discovered that in Jesus’ day the sacrificial lambs were often killed in the temple in such a way that they looked as though they were on a cross. Each time I research Passover I discover more.
Most people believe that Jesus celebrated Passover on the night he was betrayed, and so Easter and Passover are intricately linked, though they don’t always coincide. Our family celebrates Passover on Good Friday, and this is our way of bringing the two stories together. We celebrate Shabbat each Friday, so it makes sense for us to also mark Passover on a Friday.
Passover is a great way to explore using symbols in our faith at home. As I research Passover I am always finding new meanings that people have attributed to the Passover elements. The two candles represent different things, as do the four glasses of wine, and of course the different foods on the Seder plate. Even the symbols differ. Not every Seder plate is the same!
While some Christian traditions use symbols as part of their church services, fewer families use symbols in their faith at home together. Symbols are a powerful way to build connections between the visible, physical world and the invisible, spiritual world of faith. While you may not want to use the symbols in exactly the same way as another family, you might find that some symbols are particularly pertinent for your family, or be inspired to create your own.
Joy and sorrow
One part of the Passover tradition I love is the acknowledgement of both joy and sorrow. This stems from the Exodus story, where even as the plagues paved the way for Pharaoh telling the Israelites to leave Egypt, the effect of the plagues, and especially the last one, had a devastating effect on the Egyptian people. Our Seder, or service, says that “life is full of bitter endings and sweet new beginnings”. To mark this juxtaposition we eat a pair of foods that are bitter and sweet. This pairing is carried out twice, just in case we miss it the first time. I found this especially helpful during the Passover when we were waiting to conceive our first daughter. I am always reminded of how difficult celebrations can be for anyone who has lost someone they love, and this part of Passover allows us to share our joys and sorrows together
Passover is a great way to come together as a family, and to share a celebration with other families. Observing rituals such as Passover helps us reflect, remember and be thankful. They help us find meaning and grow, and they allow us to find connections between our current experience, our past and our future.
A ritual like Passover helps us see outside our own small circles. One of the things I love about Passover is that many Jews have added food to the Seder plate to represent groups of people they care about who are oppressed right now. The struggle for freedom and justice has been brought up to date by adding something delicious to their plates. It is good to remember people outside our own circles who are struggling for their own freedom today.
One reason to celebrate Passover, even if you are not Jewish, is if you like food. Michele Guinness, author and Jewish convert to Christianity, says that all Jewish festivals use food as a vital element. As someone who enjoys cooking and eating, I love exploring different Passover recipes and traditions. There are more than I have time to try out each year! And of course, there are some things that end up being part of the tradition we keep that have to be made each year.
As a Christian, Passover helps give so much context to the Easter story that I never knew before. The ritual enables us, as a family, to share in the meal Jesus shared with his friends, and to allow the depth of meaning to grow year on year.
If you would like to try out a Passover celebration this year you can download our family Seder for free
Books that might help you explore Passover include: Sammy Spider’s First Passover by Sylvia Rouss Miss Tammy’s Children’s Haggadah by Tammy Kaiser The Heavenly Party by Michele Guinness