THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Most educated people know of a connection between the Christian Easter and the Jewish Passover, but few are able to point out exactly where the connections are, and how they're related. For the benefit of my readers, I'll explain here....
For Christians the celebration of Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, the commemoration of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Associated with this event is the cleansing of the temple, in which Jesus cleared the Jerusalem temple from money changers.
For Jews a similar process begins this week in the preparation for passover. Starting on the Sunday before Passover (equivalent of 'Palm Sunday' for Christians) the Jewish home is cleared of all yeast (a Biblical symbol of sin and corruption).
For Christians, the next significant day is Holy Thursday (or "Maundy Thursday") which marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum. Holy Thursday is the Christian equivalent of the Jewish Passover Seder, and this connection is most clearly seen in the Catholic mass of Holy Thursday, which contains many similarities to the Jewish Passover Seder.
The Jewish Passover is the most holy night on the Jewish calendar. It is a time of remembrance of delivery from slavery in Egypt. The Passover actually begins on the 15th of the Jewish month of Nissan, (which usually falls in April), and is not technically over until the following Sunday -- which was historically known as the Feast of First Fruits during the ancient Temple period. So the actual Passover celebration, in its most proper sense, goes from the evening of Nissan 15, (whatever day that may fall on), to the following Sunday. The observance of First Fruits fell into obscurity after the fall of the Second Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD, but is still commemorated as the official last day of the Passover in some Jewish families.
In Christianity the days between Passover and First Fruits take on a much more significant role. Officially known in Latin as the Pascha Triduum (or "three days of Passover"), the English refer to the event as "Easter," a name originating from the Pagan history of the English speaking people. The Pascha (or "Easter") Triduum begins at sundown on Thursday in Holy Week. It is believed that the Passover fell on a Thursday that year Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem some two millennia ago. That's why Christians always begin the Triduum on a Thursday, instead of following the Jewish calendar of allowing the Passover to fall on any day of the week in any given year. In addition, Christians base the calculation of Holy Week on the Gregorian solar calendar, instead of the Jewish lunar calendar, primarily because most Christians no longer have Jewish ancestry. It is believed by some that if you follow the calculation of Holy Week back on both calendars, they will intersect perfectly in the year Jesus was crucified. This is pure speculation of course, but the important thing to remember is that Christians are simulating the Holy Week of the Jews in the year Jesus was crucified. They are not attempting to duplicate, or live by, the Jewish calendar.
The Triduum begins with the Christian version of the Passover Seder, which is most historically connected to the Holy Thursday Mass in the Catholic Church. What follows is Good Friday, commemorating the actual day Jesus Christ was crucified. It is a day of fast and abstinence, and it is the only day of the year when no Catholic masses are celebrated throughout the world. Good Friday is followed by Black Saturday (sometimes called Holy Saturday), in remembrance of the time Jesus' body lay in the tomb. Black Saturday ends with the Pascha Vigilo (or "Easter Vigil") mass on Saturday night, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of course the Sunday morning mass following, which marks the discovery of this event by the disciples of Jesus. This last celebration on the Christian calendar, corresponds with the Jewish feast of First Fruits, marking the beginning of harvest time during the ancient Temple period.
In both the Jewish and Christian traditions, Holy Week symbolizes the deliverance from bondage and freedom to love and serve God.
To the Jew this symbolism is quite literal, harkening back to the days when Jews were in the bondage of slavery to Egypt. Deliverance came with a hefty price, bringing plagues to the Egyptians, and finally resulting in the death of Egypt's firstborn sons.
To Christians this symbolism takes on a more universal meaning, recalling mankind's bondage to the slavery of sin and death. This deliverance also came with a hefty price -- the death of God's firstborn Son.
To Christians and Jews, the last Sunday of Holy Week represents a new beginning. For the Jew it is the First Fruit of harvest. To the Christian is is the Resurrection of Christ, whom St. Paul calls the First Fruit of God's chosen (1st Corinthians 15:20-23) to rise from the dead.
It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired. I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue. I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe. I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great.....