Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy Week and the Passover

Yesterday and today many faith's attention were turned to the commencement and celebration of two great events. For Christians, Sunday marked the beginning of "Holy Week" or the final week of Christ's life. For Jews this evening "Seder" marks the beginning of the "Passover" a week long celebration of the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. 

I by no means claim to be an expert on either topic, but I am an admirer. If I write anything about these great events that is incorrect I would sure welcome correction. I have a number of friends who are Christian and this is an important week for them. I also have a couple friends who are Jewish and this an equally important week for them. I wish only to express my admiration for them and the connections I see to my own Christian faith.

For Christians yesterday was "Palm Sunday". I think it is largely agreed that the sequence of events during the final week of the Savior's life are found in the book of Mark and supported by the other Gospels. That said there appears to still be some disagreement of the actual days that certain events in the Saviors final week took place. The New Testament does not actually tell us what happened on which day. Most agree that the events of Palm Sunday did take place on Sunday and most also agree that the "Holy Week" ended on the following Sunday "Easter Sunday" the day of the Savior's Resurrection.

The events of Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, are capped by the Savior's entry into the City of Jerusalem as the King of Israel. (John 12:12-15). The Savior entered the city riding on a donkey while his followers waved palm branches at him. The donkey was considered a royal form of transportation at that time and even foretold by Zechariah. (Zech 9:9) The waving of palm branches was also considered a form of respect and reverence.

I know my fellow Christian brothers and sisters draw great meaning from Palm Sunday. I too feel blessed to celebrate this week with the idea that Christ is the King of Kings. The events that were to follow latter in the week would make some wonder if he truly was the King. He would endure great agony and in the eyes of some never really liberate his followers. Christians however agree that he did indeed fulfill his mission to liberate the captive. I will write more on this later in the week.

The Passover Seder, this evening, marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. It is a commemoration of the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian captivity. A large group of BYU students, faculty and friends perform the Seder dinner on the campus each year. Here is a quick video from The Jewish Daily Forward on the event.

'Dayenu' in Provo from Jewish Forward on Vimeo.

The Jews look to Exodus 13:8 as their mandate to perform sacred meal. The Seder involves readings from the scriptures including stories of the Israelite departure from Egypt. During the dinner a number of rituals are performed including drinking four cups of wine (representing promises of deliverance from God to the Jewish people), eating matza (though there are multiple meanings they might all be summarized under the heading of humility and dependance on God), and eating special foods from the passover plate (each of the six items eaten represent different parts of the exodus story).

Though my Jewish friends draw great meaning from the Seder I also find meaning as well. Taking time to do that which is ceremonial and sacred allows us to be humble and reflect on our own deliverance stories. We each in some way or another have been held in bondage whether to an addiction, a tough circumstance or another trial. In many of these cases we are delivered sometimes by good friends and family and sometimes by God himself through the efforts of others.

I am considering making posts throughout this week about the events of this week. We will see if I am able to stick with it.I just love learning about how others practice their faith, it strengthens mine and gives me hope.

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