A Christian Passover Seder Meal
by Cindy ? and Catherine Fournier
used with permission
Haggadah means "Book of Remembrance' and it is the book, or liturgy that tells the Jewish people how to celebrate the Passover Seder (meal.) Christ, mysteriously incarnate as both the Son of God and a faithful Jewish man choose the Passover Seder to institute the new 'meal' of salvation and redemption. Christians can celebrate this seder to share a common ancestry with our Jewish brothers and sisters, and in memory of the meal that Jesus celebrated with his apostles. This 'Messianic Passover' meal could be celebrated on Holy Thursday (Though our family finds Palm Sunday more convenient for an extended family gathering...)
For a book version of a Christian Passover Seder, you can't get any better than "Come to the Table; A Catholic Passover Seder for Holy Week" by Meredith Gould. A Jewish woman who converted to Catholicism, Gould spent six years creating this excellent book. complete with readings, instructions for preparation and good advice on hosting a seder. Click the book title to visit our store for the book.
Passover Seder Preparations
Traditionally, the entire house including storage areas and other non-living spaces must be meticulously cleaned to ensure that not even a crumb of leavened bread remains or is brought into the residence for the duration of the 8-day Passover holiday.
At very least, the kitchen and dining area should be spotless and crumb free before Passover. A traditional game to encourage children to help with the chore is to hide small pieces of candy or pennies under cushions, behind curtains, atop door frames, anywhere we sometimes "forget" to clean the rest of the year!
Perhaps this is where the custom of hiding Easter candy originates?
Set the table with your finest tablecloth and best dishes. In the centre of the table, place:
2 taper candles and matches
Pitcher of ice water for drinking
Plate holding a small bowl of water and a washcloth, for washing
Wine in an easy pour bottle or carafe and a
Large plate with at several sheets of matzoh; (wrap the top 3 sheets together in a white napkin)
Set a place for each participant (plus one extra empty chair and place setting) with:
A large dinner plate with a smaller plate on top
Glass for wine
Glass for water
Knife, fork, and spoon
A cushion or pillow to sit on or lean against
At or near the head of the table, put the Seder Plate:
Plate or platter large enough to hold 5 small shallow bowls
5 items must be on the Seder Plate
1. fresh parsley, one sprig for each participant, plus an extra sprig to remain on the seder plate
2. horseradish, fresh sliced, or pureed from a jar, about 1 tsp. per participant
3. haroset (recipe with dinner menu), about 1 Tbsp. per person
4. a shank bone, or other representation of a lamb (small picture or statue of a lamb, chicken leg bone, etc.)
5. a "roasted" (hard boiled) egg, plain or decorated for Easter
And a small bowl of salt water nearby on the table.
Passover Seder Dinner Menu
After the cleaning of the home, preparation for the Passover meal, seder, takes place. This is based on the directives given in Exodus 12. God told the Israelites the Passover shall be commemorated by eating the lamb roasted over the fire, unleavened bread called matzoh, and with bitter herbs, usually horseradish. There have been other elements added to the plate, including green vegetables, a roasted egg, haroset (apple, nut and wine mixture - that symbolizes the brick and the mortar that Israel's enslaved ancestors had been forced to make in Egypt), a bowl of water for washing the hands after each part of the meal, a dish of salt water and four cups of wine.
All of the foods are placed on a special Passover plate which is placed over the three ceremonial matzoh. The matzoh is placed in a linen pouch called the matzoh tash. Within the matzoh tash were three different section. One piece of matzoh is placed in each section, individually set apart yet united in the one container.
The meal is in two parts: the ceremonial foods; the matzoh, horseradish, roasted meat, haroset and other items which are eaten first and the feasting foods; soup, lamb or some other meat, vegetables, and dessert.
Matzoh is unleavened bread and is available at some grocery stores and specialty stores. The rest of both menus are easily obtained at any well stocked grocery store. I have collected some recipes to give you some ideas, but let your imagination and your families preferences be your guide.
A Messianic Passover Haggadah
FATHER or oldest man:
The Passover/Easter stories have been told over and over for thousands of years, stories about miraculous change from misery to peace, slavery to freedom, sin to grace. One of the last things Jesus did with his disciples was to celebrate Passover and retell the story to them. It's no coincidence Jesus chose the Passover meal for what the Church now celebrates as the Mass and Eucharist. God gave us the Passover celebration and He used the same celebration to teach us even more about His love. God cared for His people, our ancestors, long ago and He cares for His children today. Tonight we will be able to see, hear, and taste the great love God has for us!
We Light the Candles
As we light the candles, we pray for the light of the Spirit of God to bring the special meaning of Passover and Easter to each and every one of us.
MOTHER or oldest woman (light the candles):
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has chosen each one of us out of all the people of the world and made us holy by Your Word, and in Whose Name we light these celebration lights.
As the light for the celebration of redemption is lit by a woman, we remember that Jesus, our Redeemer, the promised Light of the world, came into the world through the obedience of a woman, too, who has become the Blessed Mother of us all. (Father pours the first cup of wine/juice.)
The Four Cups of Wine
God told Moses, "Now you will see what I will do" (Ex.6:1), and He made four promises about how he would save his people.
"I will bring you out of Egypt...
I will free you from slavery...
I will save you by my own hand...
I will take you to be my own people, and I will be your God..."
To remember these four promises, we drink from our cups four times.
The First Cup - Kiddush -The Cup of Sanctification
When Jesus began His last Passover supper, He offered a cup to His disciples and said, "Take this, all of you, and drink from it" (Lk.22:17). Let's hold up our first cup together and bless the Lord!
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. (All drink.)
Urkhatz--Washing of Hands
FATHER (washes hands of the person to his right and gives him/her the cloth and small bowl of water):
The Scripture says only the person who has clean hands and a pure heart can stand in God's presence (Ps.24:3-4). When we wash each others' hands, we remember how Jesus, on the night of His last Passover supper, poured water into a bowl and washed the disciples' feet for them, like a servant. He asked them, "Do you understand what I, your Lord and Teacher, have done for you? Now in your hearts you should be willing to do the same kinds of things for each other" (Jn.13:12-14). (Each washes hands to the right.)
Why do we celebrate Passover? God commands His people to celebrate certain special holidays every year forever. (Holding up the Parsley):
The Passover/Easter holidays come in the spring, when the earth turns green with new life. Only God can create life and keep it alive. This green parsley is the sign of life. (Holding up the salt water): But while the Israelites were still slaves in Egypt, their life was miserable. The salt water stands for their tears. We know our life can be miserable and full of tears when we live in Satan's world. We dip our parsley in the salt water and eat it to remind us of our ancestors' tears and of how miserable our own sin makes us. We also remember how God parted the salty Red Sea to lead His people to new life.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the earth. (All eat.)
Ma Nishtanah--The Four Questions
YOUNGEST BOY or girl, if no sons (standing):
Why is this night so different from all other nights?
On all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread. On this night why do we eat only unleavened bread?
On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables. On this night why do we eat only bitter ones?
On all other nights we don't dip our vegetables even once. On this night why do we dip them twice?
On all other nights we sit on our usual seat. On this night why do we recline on soft cushions?
It is a special duty and a privilege to be the one to answer the four questions of Passover and tell everyone the great things God has done!
On all other nights we eat any kind of bread, but on Passover we eat matzoh, unleavened bread. When our ancestors left Egypt, they were in such a hurry they didn't have time to let their dough rise. Instead, the baked it flat. The Scriptures tell us that leaven is a symbol of sin.
"Don't you know that just a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast so that you may be like a new batch of dough without yeast--as you are created to be. For Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (I Cor.5:7)
During this Passover/Easter, let's break our old habits of sin and selfishness and begin fresh, new, and holy lives. (Holding up the plate of matzoh): This is the bread of suffering that our ancestors ate. The three matzoh in one napkin show us the special unity of the Lord God, the Messiah, and His Spirit. The Holy Trinity, three-in-one. The matzoh itself is a symbol of the promised Messiah, Jesus. See how it is striped, as Jesus' back was marked by the scourging before his crucifixion.
"He was wounded for our sins, bruised for our sinfulness: He suffered to bring us peace; and by his stripes our sin is healed." (Is.53:5)
See how the matzoh is pierced with holes, as God's only Son was pierced by the nails and the soldier's lance.
"I will pour out my spirit of grace and prayer: and they will see me whom they have pierced, and they will cry with sadness as for an only son." (Zech.12:10)
FATHER (taking the middle matzoh and breaking it in half):
Just as this middle piece of the bread of suffering is broken, the Son, Jesus, also suffered. We save half for after the meal. It's wrapped in a white cloth just as Jesus' body was wrapped for burial. (Wrap the matzoh half.)
Kids, please hide your eyes... (Hide the matzoh half somewhere in the room.)
Just like I've hidden the broken matzoh, Jesus' body was put in a tomb, hidden for a little while. But just as the special piece of matzoh will come out again to finish our celebration, Jesus came alive again to take us to heaven when we finish our lives. Now we share this piece of bread made with no yeast--a sign of Jesus, Who has no sin. (Pass the other matzoh half.)
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. (All eat.)
Maror--The Bitter Herbs
On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on Passover we eat maror, bitter ones, to remember how bitter life was for our ancestors in Egypt. (Holding up the horseradish): "...the Egyptians became afraid of the Israelite slaves and made them work even more. They made their lives bitter with hard work making brick and mortar and doing all kinds of work in the fields." (Ex.1:12-14) Scoop some maror onto a piece of matzoh and let the bitter taste bring tears to your eyes. Remember with compassion the tears our ancestors cried in their slavery long ago, and remember the bitterness of our own slavery to sin when we do not allow Jesus to set us free.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has set us apart by His Word and commanded us to eat bitter herbs. (All eat.)
On all other nights we don't dip our vegetables even once, but tonight we dip them twice. We've already dipped the parsley in salt water. (Holding up the haroset): The Israelites worked very hard to make brick and clay to build cities for Pharaoh. We remember this in a mixture called haroset, made from apples, cinnamon, honey, nuts, and wine. Now again scoop some maror onto a piece of matzoh, but this time, before eating it, dip it into the sweet haroset.
We dip the bitter into the sweet to remember that even the most bitter things in life can be sweetened by our hope in God. (All eat.)
Tonight We Recline
On all other nights we eat sitting on regular seats, but tonight we relax on soft cushions. The first Passover was celebrated by a people enslaved.
Once we were slaves but now we are free!
The Israelites were told to eat the Passover quickly, their coats ready, their walking sticks in their hands, their sandals on their feet, ready to leave the bondage of Egypt. Today we all may relax and freely enjoy the Passover seder.
Messiah said: "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest"(Matt.11:28)
Maggid--The Story of Passover
The story of Passover is a story of miracles, a story of redemption, a story of the might power of God to overcome evil.
The Lord had promised the land of Israel to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet here were their children in Egypt. The Pharaoh who had come to power feared them. These foreigners in our midst are prospering and have grown numerous, he thought. Suppose they join with our enemies and turn against us! Pharaoh decided to exert greater control over this people, imposing harsh and bitter slavery upon the Israelites. Still, God blessed His people in strength and number.
Pharaoh grew more frightened and ordered every baby boy among the Israelites to be drowned in the Nile River. One Israelite couple hid their little boy for three months. Finally, entrusting his future to God, they set him in a basket and placed him upon the river. His sister, Miriam, watched as he floated downstream. Coming upon the basket, Pharaoh's daughter took pity on the child and chose to raise him as her own son. She called him Moses, meaning "drawn from the water."
Moses grew and became aware of the sufferings of his people. One day, in a rage, he lost control of himself and killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. Fleeing the palace and the eye of Pharaoh, Moses became a shepherd in the land of Midian, far from the cries of his suffering brothers.
The Lord, however, saw the affliction of the children of Israel and heard their groaning. He would raise up a deliverer to lead them out of bondage. It was then that He appeared to Moses in the midst of a bush that burned with fire, yet was not consumed. Moses drew close and listened as God commissioned him to go to Pharaoh. Fearful and reluctant, still Moses agreed to bring God's message to the king of Egypt, "Let my people go!"
The Second Cup: The Cup of Plagues
Moses went to Pharaoh with God's command, "Let my people go!" But God warned Moses that Pharaoh wouldn't easily agree. The Lord sent plagues, one by one, but with each plague, Pharaoh refused and made his heart harder against God. With the tenth and most awful plague, God broke through Pharaoh's hard heart.
The Lord said, "On that night I will pass through Egypt and every firstborn person and animal will die, and I will punish all the demon gods of Egypt for I AM the Lord" (Ex.12:12)
We fill our cups a second time now. A full cup is a sign of joy and we're certainly filled with joy that God has set us free. But we should also remember how much that freedom cost. Many lives were lost to save our people from slavery in Egypt. But an even greater price was paid to save us from slavery to sin--the death of Jesus, God's only Son. When we say the name of each plague, dip a finger into your cup and let a drop fall onto your napkin, making the cup of joy a little less full as we remember the cost of our freedom.
Blood--Frogs--Lice--Wild Animals--Cattle Disease--Boils--Hail--Locusts--Darkness--Death of the Firstborn!
The Passover Lamb
In telling the Passover story, three things absolutely must be mentioned: the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, and the Passover lamb.
We've eaten the matzoh to remind us how quickly our ancestors left Egypt. We've tasted the bitter herbs to remind us of the bitter life they lived there.
FATHER (holding up shank bone):
This bone stands for the lamb whose blood on the Israelite houses was a sign to God. God told Moses, "The lamb must be perfect" and when it is killed, "the people are to mark their door frames with some of the blood... They are to eat the meat that night, along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Eat quickly, with your coat ready, your shoes on your feet, and your walking stick in your hand. It is the Lord's Passover. The blood will show your obedience; when I see the blood, I will pass over you and no plague will touch you when I punish Egypt." (Ex.12:3-13) We are reminded by Moses that it is the Lord Himself who redeemed our ancestors from slavery. "So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders." (Deut.26:8)
"On that same night I will pass through Egypt...
I, and not an angel,
"and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--
I, and not an archangel,
"and I will bring forth judgment on all the demon gods of Egypt;
I, and not a messenger,
"I am the Lord."
I myself and none other.
Since Jesus has become our perfect Passover Lamb, God has allowed the Temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed. Now no more lambs need to be sacrificed and lamb meat is no longer eaten at Passover. This bone is enough to remind us of the lamb sacrificed for the Israelites and of the Sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.
Last is the egg. It is called hagigah, a name signifying the traditional offering brought to the Temple on feast days. The egg is now a symbol of mourning, reminding us of the destruction of the holy temple in Jerusalem. The hardness of the shell also reminds us of the hardness of Pharaoh's heart--and of every heart that won't accept God's love. But the egg is also a sign of new birth and eternal life, since the shape of it shows no beginning and no end. God wants us to break the sadness and hardness of our hearts and be born into new life, everlasting life with Him. We will share the egg later, during the seder meal.
Dayenu--It Would Have Been Enough
God is so good to us! For even one little blessing we should be able to respond, Dayenu! -- "it would have been enough!"
If the Lord had merely rescued us, but had not punished the Egyptians...
ALL: (R.) It would have been enough!
If He had only destroyed their gods, but had not parted the Red Sea... (R.)
If He had only destroyed our enemies, but had not fed us His food in the desert... (R.)
If He had only led us through the desert, but had not given us his holy day of rest... (R.)
If He had only given us His Words and Commandments, but not a Promised Land forever... (R.)
But the Holy One, the Lord, blessed be He, provided all these blessings for our ancestors. And not only these, but so many more, and so many for us, too!
Blessed are you, O God, for you have given us everything we need. You have given us Jesus our Messiah, forgiveness for sin, life with You now in our hearts, in Your Word, and in your Eucharist, and the promise of life with You forever!
The Cup of Joy
Everyone drink the second cup now, the Cup of Joy, and we'll have dinner! (Remove seder plate and haggadot from the table.) Serve the rest of the meal. Everyone feasts.
FATHER (returning seder plate to the table):
It is time to share the afikomen, the hidden matzoh. Who can find it? (Children search for the hidden matzoh and one gives it to Father.) Remember, this piece of matzoh, made without leaven, is a symbol of the promised Messiah, Jesus. It was hidden and now it is back. Jesus was buried and rose form the dead. This special matzoh is the last food eaten at Passover so that it's taste stays with us. It's shared like the Passover lamb was shared from the time our ancestors were freed from Egypt until the destruction of the Temple, after Jesus' death. Jesus broke the matzoh and gave thanks to the Lord.
Blessed are you, O God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
FATHER (breaking the matzoh into pieces):
It was here that Jesus added the words: "This is my Body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." (Lk.22:19) Jesus changed the significance of the matzoh forever, and gives us His Body at every Holy Mass. The matzoh, like the Eucharist, is broken in small pieces and everyone must eat their own piece, just as each of us must accept Jesus' grace for ourselves. No other person can do it for us. Think about Jesus, the Lamb of God, Whose Body we are privileged to truly receive in the Eucharist, our once and forever Passover sacrifice. Eat this piece of matzoh now, and let its taste stay with you. (All eat.)
Eliyahu HaNavi--The Prophet Elijah
FATHER (lifting the cup from the empty place at the table):
This cup is the cup of Elijah the Prophet. Elijah did not see death, but was taken up to heaven alive in a mighty wind riding a fiery chariot. Our ancestors and the Jewish people everywhere hoped that Elijah would come at Passover to announce the coming of the Messiah.
Before the birth of John the Baptizer, an angel of the Lord said, "And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah...to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Lk.1:17)
Later Jesus said about John, "...he is the Elijah who was to come." (Matt.11:14)
It was this same John who saw Jesus and announced, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)
The extra cup also reminds us to pray for our blood brothers, those Jews still seeking the Messiah Who has already come to them and Who waits longingly for them. The empty chair reminds us, and every household observing Passover tonight, that there are still those who cannot celebrate as free men. We pray that someday soon all may freely rejoice in the majesty of God everywhere in the world. Someone open the door to welcome the Prophet of God to our seder!
Hallel--The Cup of Praise
Remember God's promise, "You will be my people and I will be your God" (Ex.6:7) Now let's fill our cups for the fourth and last time, and give thanks to our great God.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
ALL: (R.) His love lasts forever.
Give thanks to the Lord, God of all creation. (R.)
Give thanks to Him who destroyed the demon gods of Egypt. (R.)
Give thanks to Him who destroys the works of Satan today. (R.)
Give thanks to Him who saved Israel from slavery in Egypt. (R.)
Give thanks to Him who saves us from slavery to sin. (R.)
Give thanks to God, our God, who chose us to be His people. (R.)
Lift your cups and bless the Lord!
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. (All drink.)
Our Passover celebration is completes, just as God's plan for our salvation through Jesus is complete. Now it's up to us to go and live His Word. Let's end with the traditional wish that next year we will celebrate face to face with Jesus! "Lashanah haba'ah bi Yerushalayim!"
"Next year, in Jerusalem!"
Some good links for more reading:
The Lord's Table (This link is temporarily unavaialble.)
The Passover Meal