By Ray Lotty
Easter and Passover usually coincide but it’s not every year that the first night of Passover falls on Good Friday. We asked spiritual care coordinator Ray Lotty about the story behind the festivals.
Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is a multi-faith community made up of staff, patients and carers from diverse backgrounds. In recognition of our Jewish and Christian communities, let’s take a minute to look at these two religious festivals.
Passover is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays. It commemorates the Biblical story of Exodus, when Hebrew slaves were released by God from bondage in Egypt. Called Pesach (pay-sak) in Hebrew, Passover is a celebration of freedom observed by Jews everywhere.
This rescue from slavery, with its consequent journey through the desert, was the defining moment in the Hebrews becoming a nation under God.
Passover begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nisan (late March or early April in the Gregorian calendar). This year, Passover is celebrated from 30 March until 7 April.
Passover is marked by several carefully structured rituals enacted over the seven or eight days of the celebration, including the avoidance of leaven. The most important ritual is the Passover meals, also known as the Seder, which includes using four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.
Easter is perhaps the most important time of contemplation and celebration in the Christian calendar. Church services are conducted on Good Friday, as Christians remember the sacrifice that Christ made to pay the penalty for the sins of all humankind.
On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate Christ rising from the dead, and so declaring that his sacrifice was sufficient, and that, in personal relationship with him, we may never fear death, for it is not the end.
Many people celebrate Easter with chocolate Easter eggs (including the children’s favourite – the Easter egg hunt!), and hot cross buns, and the Easter Bunny. It is a time of relaxation, refreshment and family. A number of people eat fish (rather than red meat) on Good Friday (in fact, it is an extremely busy time of the year at the fish markets).
A new beginning
The two festivals go hand in hand in many ways. Both have themes of freedom, redemption and hope running through them. In the northern hemisphere where the festivals were first observed, they mark the coming of Spring, a time of rebirth and new beginnings.
At Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, for our Catholic patients, we invite one of the wonderful priests from our local Catholic Diocese to share Holy Communion. For patients of other faiths, there is a space for quiet contemplation in our ground floor reflection room available to use any time, day or night.
However you choose to celebrate Easter, may you and your families have a most enjoyable, relaxing and safe holiday.