The Holy Thursday Meal: A Seder for Catholics and Christians

by Josée
For the people of Jewish faith, the Passover Seder meal is a sacred ritual that celebrates the deliverance and freedom of the Israelite people from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, as told in the book of Exodus. I have never taken part in an authentic Jewish Seder meal, but as a child my parents would celebrate a Seder-like meal on Holy Thursday in our family home. It seems that there is a lot of debate about whether or not it is appropriate for Catholics or Christians to celebrate the Seder. Some state that it can be both disrespectful and unauthentic, while others state that it can help Catholics and Christians enter more deeply in the Passion of Christ during Holy Week. There is no official Church teaching on the matter that I am aware of. I believe that Catholics and Christians can celebrate a Holy Thursday Meal that can be both a beautiful and meaningful tradition while still being sensitive and respectful to the Jewish Seder ritual.

If you check online there are many different resources that can be used for preparing a Holy Thursday Meal, such as this one. We used the Passover Seder for Christian Families by Sam Mackintosh as our source of inspiration and made some additions and edits along the way to suit the needs of our group (that had seven young children!). Preparing for a Holy Thursday Meal takes time. There are symbolic foods to prepare such as a leg of lamb, haroset, unleavened bread, green vegetables and bitter herbs. As well as preparing additional accompanying dishes such as orzo, salad and a chocolate tart! The table must be carefully set and decorated. We placed a large piece of plywood over bins so that we could have a lower table surrounded with cushions. There are also special items that need to be gathered such as incense, a pitcher and basin, a Bible and wine! It is helpful to start preparations for the Holy Thursday Meal at least a week in advance, such as ordering the leg of lamb.

We celebrated our Holy Thursday Meal last night, on Wednesday, so that we could attend the Holy Thursday mass without feeling rushed. It was a meal rich in symbolism and significance and a wonderful learning opportunity for the children. I hope to continue the tradition of the Holy Thursday Meal in the coming years while continuing to do so in a culturally respectful way.

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