At Easter, remembering Passover

Some years, because of the wiles of the lunar calendar, the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian Triduum (the … Continued

Some years, because of the wiles of the lunar calendar, the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian Triduum (the three days that carry Christians from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday) intersect. Saturday is the first day of Passover, and it is also, in the ecclesial calendar, Holy Saturday, when Christians sit with Jesus in his tomb.


View Photo Gallery: Christians around the world raised palm branches in traditional observances launching Holy Week, which for believers marks the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus.

On Friday night, many Jewish families held a Passover Seder, and many Christians attended a Good Friday service, focusing their attention on the Cross. Some of us, who live in families that include Jews and Christians, participate in both sacred commemorations; on Friday, I went from my church’s small, quiet Good Friday service to my aunt’s Passover Seder.

The Seder helped me appreciate the Christian story more fully. The Seder teaches, among other things, a special kind of memory — participants are enjoined not merely to recall the Exodus from Egypt, but to remember it as though they had been there. In theological language, this is “anamnesis”; it is the kind of memory that allows the past to bear on the present in an especially powerful way.

Christians practice anamnesis at the Eucharist, the meal of bread and wine that Christ gave to his disciples at the Last Supper, instructing them ever after to partake of that meal “in memory of Me.” At the Eucharist, Christians practice not just ordinary remembering but the kind of remembering that makes the past (and indeed makes Jesus) present in the present.


View Photo Gallery: Jews commemorate the Exodus and liberation of their people from ancient Egypt.

So I feel grateful that my Jewish relatives include me in their Seder. When Passover and Triduum intersect, I find my own experience of the Christian paschal cycle deepened by my family’s Seder.

And yet, as I left church on Good Friday and headed to my aunt’s house, I was worrying.

As at many churches, my church had just read the Passion narrative according to the Gospel of John: “[T]he Jews . . . cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ ” The vilification of “the Jews” in John’s Gospel has had murderous consequences through the ages — and although Christians turned on Jews at many times of year, the Triduum was especially violent. As the 15th-century Rabbi Joseph Cohen said about Good Friday, “Every year we live in fear of this day.”

As I left church on Friday, I was worrying about what we have forgotten: the killing that our ecclesial forebears undertook on Good Fridays past. We have forgotten that sermons and liturgies prompted this killing.

I don’t want to banish John’s Passion from the canon; I do want the church to stop proclaiming the Johannine Passion as though we are ignorant of the violent consequences it has had.

Essential to the Passover Seder is retelling the story of the Exodus. We read that we are to find ways of telling this story that even the youngest at the table will understand.

I wonder if Christians might pause at the intersection of Passover and the Triduum and retell some of the harder stories of our past — the stories of the murders undertaken by Christians at this time of year, in the name of the One who died to triumph over hatred and death.

Let us retell those stories, and repent.

Lauren Winner teaches at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C. She is author, most recently,of “STILL: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.”

  • pastordar1

    Easter needs to coincide with the Passover not intersect. Jesus died midweek of the Passover and rose at the end of the Passover. Many christians out there are being misled.

Read More Articles

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

shutterstock_186566975
Hey Bart Ehrman, I’m Obsessed with Jesus, Too — But You’ve Got Him All Wrong

Why the debate over Jesus’ divinity matters.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.

shutterstock_186090179
How Passover Makes the Impossible Possible

When we place ourselves within the story, we can imagine new realities.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This Passover, We’re Standing at an Unparted Red Sea

We need to ask ourselves: What will be the future of the State of Israel — and what will it require of us?

pews
Just As I Am

My childhood conversion to Christianity was only the first of many.

shutterstock_127731035 (1)
Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?

In an age of rising singlehood, many churches are still focused on being family ministry centers.

2337221655_c1671d2e5e_b
Mysterious Tremors

People like me who have mystical experiences may be encountering some unknown Other. What can we learn about what that Other is?

bible
Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

That verse you keep quoting? It may not mean what you think it means.

csl_wall_paper
What C.S. Lewis’ Marriage Can Tell Us About the Gay Marriage Controversy

Why “welcome and wanted” is a biblical response to gay and lesbian couples in evangelical churches.