On Tuesday of Holy Week members of both our Oakwood congregations and St Alban’s came together at the Parish Centre to celebrate a symbolic Feast of the Passover. Led by Fr Paul Newman and Rev Peter Bates we took the opportunity to attempt to connect with the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. Jesus was a practising Jew and His death and resurrection took place against the background of the joyful feast of the Passover, when the Jewish nation celebrates the liberation of God’s people from slavery in Eygpt. Though for Christians Holy Week recalls the tragic and brutal slaying of Our Lord, it is only by going through this pain and darkness that we are able to celebrate our liberation from sin and the promise and hope of being an Easter people.
The candles were lit at the beginning of our meal by Deacon Rosemary Bell, and we then took turns reading the events of the Passover story interwoven with the story of Christ’s final few days on earth. We drank wine for the traditional Kiddush blessing, and spoke those familiar words from the Mass, “blessed are you Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to drink. Blessed be God forever.” This was followed by everyone taking a sprig of parsley, a sign of new life in Springtime, dipping it in salt water to recall the bitter tears during slavery and eating it. Matzoth, a hard cracker, is a reminder of the bread of afflication that the Jews ate while slaves, as well as the unleavened bread that they were told to bake on the night of the exodus. A piece of radish, a sign of the bitter years during enslavement, reminds us as Christians of the bitterness of Christ’s passion. Dipping the radish in haroseth, a sweet paste of apple and cinnammon, is a symbol of hope for both Jews and Christians. A lamb bone recalled the final meal eaten by all the Jews before they left Egypt. For Christians, Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’ who sacrificed himself for us, enabling us to pass from death to eternal life.
The parallels between the Jewish and Christian experiences and beliefs were made clear during the celebration and we ended the formal part of the evening with the traditional Jewish song of praise ‘Dayyenu’ – ‘if only’ – which celebrates how much more God keeps giving to us, beyond our hopes and expectations. The evening ended with chat and nibbles as we prepared to celebrate the next milestones of Holy Week.