Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why We Won't Have the Seder Meal This Holy Thursday


Well.

There's no time like Lent for a good dose of humility now, is there?  For the past, oh, six years or more, our family has had a little Seder meal on Holy Thursday before we rush of to the Mass of the Last Supper.  A beautiful way for us to connect the Passover meal celebrated by the Israelites and made new by Christ's Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper with our family's liturgical observance and the Church's annual entrance into the Passion timeline.  It seemed so good and so fitting!  

Oooor so I thought.  

I learned last year that the USCCB actually instructs us to NOT try to "baptize" the Seder by integrating it into a Christological New Testament understanding or as an entry into the Eucharist.  If we are going to celebrate the Seder as Christians we are to do so observing the original rites "in all their integrity."  

From God's Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism inCatholic Preaching written by the Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy of the USCCB:
28. It is becoming familiar in many parishes and Catholic homes to participate in a Passover Seder during Holy Week. This practice can have educational and spiritual value. It is wrong, however, to "baptize" the Seder by ending it with New Testament readings about the Last Supper or, worse, turn it into a prologue to the Eucharist. Such mergings distort both traditions. The following advice should prove useful: 
When Christians celebrate this sacred feast among themselves, the rites of the Haggadah for the Seder should be respected in all their integrity. The seder . . . should be celebrated in a dignified manner and with sensitivity to those to whom the Seder truly belongs. The primary reason why Christians may celebrate the festival of Passover should be to acknowledge common roots in the history of salvation. Any sense of "restaging" the Last Supper of the Lord Jesus should be avoided .... The rites of the Triduum are the [Church's] annual memorial of the events of Jesus' dying and rising (Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter, March 1980, p. 12). 
(Bolding mine.) 

So there is value in observing the Seder as a Christian but only as long as the rite and original prayers are maintained "in all their integrity."  We weren't doing that.  We were using a book with prayers that did reference the connection to the New Testament and Christ's sacrifice (published before the above directive).  And they're beautiful.  From what I can tell, it seems the aim of the bishops here is to ensure respect for the faith of our Jewish brothers and sisters and honor the roots of our Faith with dignity as well as to ensure that no one is causing confusion by "replicating" the Eucharist.  To be honest I'm not sure I fully understand the reasoning of the bishops.  We use a whole lot of the Jewish rites and observances as the premise for our own as Christians and isn't that what the Mass exactly is in many ways?  The new Passover?  So many of our prayers, too, are based off of the Jewish prayers.  But while I don't necessarily understand why baptizing the Seder specifically is wrong, our little family will obey.  Because obedience trumps matzo.  

We could, it seems, still do it so long as we were observing the full Haggadah rites or, I suppose, we could make a stretch of the wording here to fit what we were doing and our intentions.  But I'd rather err on the side of caution and obedience and just replace our tradition with another observance.  We've done a family foot washing a few times over the years but more often than not with the rush of doing our Seder once the husband got home from work and finishing it in time to rush off to Mass and then it being meltdown/bedtime by the time we get home, it usually got passed over (ha! get it?).  Maybe by not doing our Seder and replacing it with a simple soup from the freezer (with matzoh on the side as a little HT to the Last Supper?), we'll be able to do that instead.  Which, to be honest, I'd actually prefer.  I really really don't like lamb.  

I apologize for anyone who may have started this little tradition in their homes based upon my previous posts and accounts.  You can be certain it was done with good intention.  I've deleted or updated the posts containing reference to our Holy Thursday Seder meal to reflect this new awareness.   

So there you have it.  Why our family won't be passing the wine and sedering this Holy Thursday and why.  May God bless all of us as we try our best to live the life of Christ in our little domestic churches.




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28 comments:

  1. Mary I love that you took the time to explain this and go back and edit the previous years. I find it so encouraging that you able us your readers to be the best we can be. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Madeline. I only wish I had known it sooner!

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  2. We never did the full Christianized Seder Meal because it just didn't feel right or respectful to our older brothers in faith, but we still always have lamb, flatbread (naan... which I'm pretty sure is leavened) and a spicy, minced fruit salad reminiscent of charoset.

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    1. I'm assuming that's okay then? I thought about just having the meal without the prayers but none of us really care for lamb and it's expensive :P I guess I'm having a hard time seeing why some replications of Jewish ritual are disrespectful and some not. Jesus Himself Christianized the Passover with new prayers and then we represent that same meal at Mass without it being disrespectful. I must be missing something which wouldn't be the first time :)

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  3. Mary, thank you so much for posting about this!! Josh wrote his thesis on anti semitism and the Christian Church. After doing that research he has always felt so strongly that we are taking something sacred from our elder brothers when we change the sedar meal. In his work he also found that so many of the Jewish communities in the area are thrilled to have us as their guests at a cedar. One of the temples downtown actually has a sedar (outside of their normal cedar) that anyone is welcome to come to, and they teach all the way through. It was so beautiful to share that with them, and it showed me so clearly what we are missing when we change it. :). Thank you so much for sharing your faith and family here, you all are so beautiful.

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    1. Oh neat! I didn't know Josh wrote about it and would love to talk with you both about it more. We've always done it with the best of intentions so I'd really like to learn more of his thoughts on it. I've been wondering lately, too, how the Lord's Day celebrations fit into all this. Being at a real Seder meal would be really eye opening, I bet!

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  4. Do you have any Jewish friends nearby who would invite you to their Seder? Because it really is SUCH a beautiful tradition, and might be a really nice way to still celebrate and then go home and talk about how it relates?

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    1. Hmmm...none that are devout enough to observe the Seder, I don't think. But there are lots of temples nearby.

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  5. Thank you for posting this, Mary!
    Here is a sermon explaining why you shouldn't have a Seder meal, albeit from a different perspective. http://www.romans10seventeen.org/audio-files/20080928-Seder-Meals-Violate-the-1st-Commandment.mp3
    Here is a blog post regarding the issue and the sermon here: http://www.catholicstand.com/why-christians-shouldnt-celebrate-seder-meals/
    Taylor Marshall on the issue here: http://taylormarshall.com/2015/03/christian-seder-passover-meals-should-christians-celebrate-them.html
    And from New Liturgical Movement here: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2016/02/should-christians-celebrate-seder-meal.html#.VuidYOYXFQE
    God bless!

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    1. Actually, here is a more recent sermon by the same priest: http://romans10seventeen.org/audio-files/20110306-The-Christian-Seder-Meal-A-Violation-of-the-1st-Commandment.mp3
      Sorry, I'm not sure which one I've heard.

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    2. Wow, those are interesting and I see their points and yet they seem to go directly against what the bishops themselves say. Am I getting that right? These authors and priest are speaking of a Christian being a part of a REAL Seder meal. But the bishops seem to speak to that being okay and PREFERRED and the Christianized version NOT okay. So now I'm confused...

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    3. I have made up a printable pdf booklet for use from Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday: https://www.scribd.com/doc/268609663/A-Pictorial-Clock-of-the-Passion

      My children really enjoyed it last year. You can see the idea on my blog here:
      http://thewildestofadventures.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/a-pictorial-clock-of-passion-of-our.html

      We gather each hour and read through the prayer and look at the picture. The children of course can't do the night hours so I just skimmed through them quickly before they went to bed. We then kept going with it when they woke the next day. I was pleased as I'd hear them being excited to know 'what's happening to Jesus now?'

      We just might be crazy enough to go to the Holy Saturday vigil again this year. It is so beautiful!! And sooo long, not to mention the way past midnight thing! We went accidentally for the first year last year. For some reason when I saw the 'starts at 9.30pm' on Holy Saturday last year I thought, we can do that! I clock it up to the tiredness of having a toddler that I thought, oh great, we can go to Mass and be home by 10.30 or 11. Somewhere in my brain it did not register that the vigil Mass starts at midnight, not at 9.30. The 9.30 is for the liturgy that comes before the Mass. But it was beautiful and we are all inspired to go again... I think ;)

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    4. Thank you, Sharyn! That looks beautiful! We did the Vigil last year but our pastor starts it right at sundown so we were home by 10 last year and even that was hard! I can't imagine starting at midnight with toddlers. Some I'm sure would handle it okay...not my current crew ;)

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  6. This is so interesting to me. We've never done it, but mostly because I'm not good at planning out things like that! Although, you might want to take away my Steubenville card when I say this, but the Lord's Day celebrations that households had really rubbed me the wrong way. It's one reason why I never joined a household. I couldn't get over the way they seemed to be imitating Mass on their own, and I didn't see the point of it. The sedar meal idea gave me the same feelings again, and I'm probably totally in the wrong, but I've learned to trust my gut when things make me feel uneasy even though I can't point out why.

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    1. No card revoke, I actually feel kind of the same way ;) I remember voicing my questions about it and never really receiving an answer that fully satisfied. So I kind of left it at trusting that if it were clearly forbidden then it wouldn't be happening there. But it never really jived with me for the same reasons. That said, if the bishops say the official Seder (or Lord's Day...but I have no idea if there's ever been anything officially addressing that) is okay, then I submit to that. I'm glad I'm not the one that has to figure these things out!

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    2. The answer to your question lies clearly in your quote from the USCCB. Jews celebrate something entirely different in their Passover. I really think you're overthinking this. We, as laity, have our role and it is not that of the ministerial priesthood. If you wish to celebrate the Last Supper, go to Mass. It is there every single day.

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    3. I don't think the USCCB quote is talking about Lord's Day which is entirely different from the Seder meal. But I appreciate the encouragement to get to Mass. There is certainly no replacement for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, no argument there.

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  7. Oh, dear.

    Try reading the New Liturgical Movement article that Kimberlee linked to above. Perhaps that will help.

    Also, let me say this...ecumenism is all well and good, but we are not Jewish. Nor are we Protestant. We do not share the same theology.

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    1. Hi Marie, you replied above to Colleen's comment which was in regards to Lord's Day celebrations that some partake in as a private devotion on Saturday evenings. They are Christian and (as far as I can tell) okay by the Church and totally separate from discussion of the Seder or Passover meal.

      Getting back to the Seder, I did read the article. My confusion still rests in the fact that those sites she referenced all claim that for a Catholic to attend an official Seder meal would be wrong while the bishops have clearly said that it is okay to do as long as it is in fact, an authentic Seder meal. So unless I'm missing something there is a clear contradiction. To be honest, the articles make more sense to me than what the bishops say but I submit to that first. Honestly, celebrating the Seder is not something that's ever been that important to me or huge in our home so we won't do it. It was simply a small informal way that I was trying to help my children and us better understand the connection between the Passover and the Passion timeline. My primary purpose was not at all ecumenical. But I now know that it is not allowed the way we were doing it (I wish I had known earlier!) and the post is trying to correct any error I may have innocently spread in references or posts from previous years. I'm very aware that we are not Jewish or Protestant :) I'm a Catholic just trying to understand and live out my Faith and submitting to the authority of the bishops. <3

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    2. Sorry about the misplacement of my comment, Mary.

      The USCCB does on occasion take some, shall we say, unfortunate positions. That's why it's so important to know our faith. Since some parishes/individuals stage Seders out of ignorance, the USCCB is backing down from the catechesis they should be providing. Or softening it, at any rate. It's sad, but it happens. Yet they do provide the answer you're looking for in their statement. I know you thought you were doing something good and I understand your reasoning. But that's why I told you to go to Mass, any Mass, not just Sundays, because that is where you will find the connection. Use that as your teaching point with your children. Actually, it really starts with the Incarnation, but then we're going deeper.

      As far as actually attending a Passover Seder, if a family should invite you, I don't think there's any reason not to go, but we are not to participate in the prayers or rituals. It could also be confusing to young children to whom you're trying to teach the faith. I have Sephardic Jewish friends, very orthodox, and they keep their religious observances within their own group. They're not being unkind, simply following the precepts of their faith. Something we Catholics used to do back in the dark ages when I went to school, where we were thoroughly catechized inside and out.

      It's commendable that you are trying to live out your faith. I would say just try not to wing it. :)

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  8. I'm trying to wrap my head around understanding this also. Last year, we did my take on a Passover meal (roast beef, horseradish sauce haroset, unleavened bread, bitter greens) and used our good china and crystal and tablecloth that my grandmother made. Didn't do any prayers or anything - just talked about how the Israelites and eventually Jesus would have eaten similar things (except without the China - lol). They've asked about doing it again multiple times already this Holy Thursday and now I'm conflicted on what to do. Last year was only in the spirit of trying to create a sensual link with the past before we went to Hoy Thursday Mass. Hmmm. I like you would love to understand this better so that I can make sure I'm not passing on heretical traditions to our kids... Kidding... Sort of...

    Thanks for sharing this and for dialoguing about it!

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    1. Ha, thanks, Michelle! Yeah, I know what you mean! It seems like that would be pretty innocent and fine and I can't see how there would be anything offensive about that but clearly my inclinations led me wrong already soooo might not want to go by my word!

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    2. Ack! Reading through my comment again and realizing it is a LITTLE incoherent. This is what I get when read blogs and comment while I nurse...

      *the kids* have been asking about doing it again; *sensory* link; *Holy* Thursday. Bah.

      And if my tone came across as anything other than joking about being heretical, I apologize! Lol! Having read the blog for many years, I've found it to be so incredibly inspiring, honest, authentic, and challenging in all the right ways!

      Anyway, our almost 10 year old is big into knowing the "why" behind the "what" (as am I quite honestly.) I can understand and appreciate that there are times when we need to just be obedient and trust, even without knowing the why, and perhaps this is one of those times. Or maybe we just need more time and writing to flesh out what this means for our little domestic churches. In the meantime, thank goodness, God knows our hearts!

      Peace!

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    3. No worries! Your comment was totally fine and I completely understood! (Ha, I didn't even notice the typos :) Thank you for the kind words! I actually just today read about a religious community that I really respect as faithful that has an annual Seder meal so I don't think the confusion is limited to us! Maybe at some point it'll be clarified a bit further, who knows.

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    4. Michelle, just so you, i totally was not referencing your comment at all. Your comment was great ;)

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  9. Mary, let me say this. For anyone who knows you personally or has been a long time reader of your blog, I think the last thing anyone could accuse you of is being unfaithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, wishy washy in your faith, overly ecumenical or (crazy talk here ) herectical! You are intentional, prudent and obedient in your practice of your faith. Anyone to accuse you of something otherwise obviously does not know you very well. Please do not think you have to prove yourself to anyone in this matter for we know your intentions to be good and honorable and more importantly, our Heavenly Father certainly does!

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    1. And...that was me trying my utmost to be prudent in my speech, for the good Lord knows how I do not want to be when I read the tone in some of these comments.

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    2. Ha, no worries, really! I don't mind the discussion. It's obviously a confusing thing and hopefully everyone's just trying to get to the truth. One of the many deficiencies of the online world and blogging in general, I guess. Our keyboard voice doesn't always come across the way we'd like and we can't really know people as well as we do in real life :) But thank you! <3

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