Several years ago, we began to celebrate the Passover Seder as a little family. I have participated in several full length Seder meals and it is always a profound experience for me. I wanted to incorporate that experience into our family's Holy Week traditions and it has become my favorite part of the week.
Holy Week is a heavy week for me. Even Lent is often overshadowed by pain and heartache. Four friends of mine have buried their children during the Lent season - I've grieved with and for these precious mamas and their children. One year, our daughter was in her second spica (body) cast during Holy Week. Taking care of a baby in a spica is exhausting. The cast came off Good Friday that year and her skin was raw and tender for several days. Raw and tender seems a fitting description for Easter week. Last year, after 19 grueling days of pain and sleeplessness, one of our kids was diagnosed with Perthes Disease (a very painful bone disease.) That diagnosis came Easter week. We spent Good Friday in a pediatric hospital in Dallas. It was painful emotionally for us and physically for our child. We were raw and a year later, I'm not sure we've recovered. Here we are again, hours away from Good Friday and we will find ourselves remembering the cross and practicing silence and also finalizing a very difficult medical decision for our daughter in the morning. Meanwhile, I find myself carrying her often this week and searching for medicines as once again she is in pain and in a flareup of the disease. Holy Week has marked us. It seems to be clouded in pain for our family. We pause and perhaps the pain of disease forces us to pause more often - I find myself reflecting more on Jesus and remembering the events of Holy Week.
Part of why I so enjoy the Seder experience is the way it involves children. The children have specific roles in the meal and I love the emphasis on family, the value placed on women and children. It seems unique to me that an ancient culture would so clearly value women and children. I also enjoy preparing for it. Perhaps more than any other holiday event, I study for the Passover. I read guides and articles and books. I listen to the traditional music and research and write and plan. I love the parallels between the traditional rituals and the Resurrection. Mostly, I love the imagery and imagining Jesus at the Last Supper - listening to these same songs, saying these same words and knowing He too participated in the Seder - just before His arrest. I love the radical introduction of the Eucharist and the emphasis on love and service as demonstrated in the washing of His disciples' feet.
After studying the Passover Seder, so much more of the events of Easter make sense. When you understand the traditions a little, it makes sense for why the introduction of the Eucharist was radical. When I realized the meal involves 4 glasses of red wine and a 4+ hour meal, it makes sense that the disciples were sleepy in the middle of the night at the Garden of Gethsamane. Developing a better understanding for the significance and cultural context for the Last Supper has been very formative for my faith in recent years.
So for our little family, bedtime is also sacred. :) The actual Passover Seder meal would take approx 4-5 hours starting at sunset and ending around midnight. We start ours a bit earlier because hungry children and spend 1-2 hours. By combining the eating with the rituals, it does shorten it a bit.
Technically, a Messianic Passover Seder should occur on Maundy Thursday. We sometimes do ours on Good Friday depending on schedules and conflicts and the week. (We live in freedom so sometimes it has to happen on a different day.) I've done it without the meal or with a modified meal. I've done it with fish and this year we are doing it with lamb. It was a struggle for me to purchase the lamb. I don't eat much meat and was honestly rather disgusted by the bloodiness of it. Plus it was costly. But as I wavered and considered other options at the butcher, I felt a strong conviction to purchase the lamb this year and focus on the bloodiness and cost and involve my children more in the process of preparing it. I don't think lamb must be used - there are certainly other options but lamb is the traditional food.
As we prepared the lamb with marinade, Ellie commented "Mommy, I'm so sad this lamb had to die for us. It's so bloody." I realized then that it was the right decision to go with lamb this year. We needed to be confronted with the blood and imagery of the lamb. The phrase "Lamb of God" is far more powerful for our family tonight.
Other components of the Passover meal include:
Maror (bitter herbs- ground horseradish or romaine lettuce stems or even arugula)
Matzo (delicious crackers - my kids eat these year round. My grocery store no longer carries them but Amazon does and they arrived on my front porch yesterday.:))
Salt Water (just a small bowl)
hard boiled egg (shell on)
Lamb or fish (I roast the lamb. Marinade it overnight in lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice, dijon mustard, rosemary & honey)
Charoset (apple slices mixed with plain Greek yogurt, walnuts & raisins & a little wine/juice)
Bone of lamb (butcher always is surprised when I order this)
Small bowl for hand washing, extra napkins and large bowl and towel for foot washing
White towel (I use a flour sack kitchen towel)
Wine (red) &/or grape juice (We use both.) Each person will drink 4 glasses - so buy enough. You can use small servings.
I bought a Passover plate last year that I love (off Amazon) but I've also used a plain white dish for displaying the food components. We've sometimes placed it on the coffee table and reclined as is traditional. This year, we are using our kitchen table but incorporating pillows to remember the act of reclining.
Resources I've found helpful:
The Messianic Passover Seder Preparation Guide (a short booklet that clearly explains food items and table set up and includes a few simple recipes.)
Jennifer Dukes Lee - A Messianic Passover Seder for Families with Children
*I've also used Ann Voskamp's guide. I found Ann's a little over my kids' heads. Jennifer Dukes Lee's is very easy to follow and clearly written. I added a few things for our family that I didn't want to miss and created notecards using her guide as a basis. My notecards can easily sit at each person's seat to help easily guide us through the rituals without the distraction of flipping papers or losing our place in a lengthy guide. Also, writing out the notecards helps me to learn the format and key ideas of the meal. The traditional Seder includes singing and dancing so we also include dancing (my kids love a dance party and some of the Hebrew music definitely inspires dancing!)
A Bible. We will be using The Jesus Storybook Bible to read the story of the Last Supper with our kids.
Ann Voskamp - The Best Easter Dinner (How to Start a Christian Tradition Messianic Seder) -beautifully written guide
24 Hours That Changed the World by Adam Hamilton. We are studying this in our Sunday School class but I must admit I've read ahead this week. His research and insight have been fascinating to me this week as we prepare for Holy Week.
I absolutely loved Janet Denison's article about how to talk to kids about "Why did a good 'Dad' let them kill his Son?" She uses scripture and wisdom to wrestle with some tough questions that especially inquisitive kids may ask as you dive deeper into understanding the Passion. My favorite line? "The first thing every parent must teach a child is that God can be trusted, even though He is difficult to understand." Print this out and tuck it somewhere safe to reference during those hard conversations. (Good for adults too, actually.)
The Book of Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals
Music - a Celebration of the Passover Seder (there's a MP3 file that you can play on the Amazon Music app)
Tomorrow, I hope to share the three most fascinating insights I've learned this year as I've prepared for our Passover Seder meal.
at 12:16 AM