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Passover 2015

Are Church Seders really anything new?

On Monday 30 March, we shared a Passover meal at the start of our journey through Holy Week with the aim of gaining a greater understanding of Christ’s Last Supper (as well as having a great meal and enjoying ourselves)  at the Contact Centre, 60 Hambalt Road. It was fun and many were surprised at how closely it was echoed in Christian liturgy. We welcomed Murray Glickman to guide us through the Seder meal; he brought to our attention this interesting episode from the reign of Justinian in 527.

"A recently published book* states that Roman Emperor Justinian made 'efforts to force Jews to postpone their observance of the Passover, so that Judaizing Christians might be prevented from celebrating Easter on the Jewish holiday'. An amazing state of affairs given how late on it was — 527 AD, to be precise — that Justinian came to the throne.  Christianity had, of course, taken on a distinct identity of its own centuries before.
 
The fact that Justinian felt it necessary to intervene like this raises some interesting questions:

•       Why was he evidently so upset about Jews celebrating Passover at the same time as Christians celebrated Easter?  Could it be that, even as late as in the mid 6th century, very large numbers of Christians still made a practice of celebrating Passover too?

•       If so, why did Justinian beat about the bush?  Why didn't he just ban Christians from celebrating Passover, full stop?   Could it be that the habit was so ingrained he didn't feel confident enough to do so?  Is that why he settled for second-best, trying only to prevent Christians from celebrating Passover at the same time as Easter and, even then, only by roundabout means? 

•       If, as it seems, Christians did, in the 6th century, still 'do' Passover in a big way, can we presume they also went to seders?  After all, that is an essential part of the celebration.  If they did, is it plausible to imagine they would have done so in isolation from Jewish people in their midst who were doing the same thing at the same time? Surely not!"

*The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800 (Themes in Islamic History) by Jonathan P. Berkey

Our thanks to Murray for sharing so much of himself with us, to Sarah Miles and Eleni, and to Dean (the chef at the Ace of Clubs Day Centre) for cooking and to our astonishingly excellent musicians who made the evening so lively … next year in Jerusalem.