For many years I have gathered with friends to celebrate the Seder meal on the first night of the Jewish Feast of the Passover. One of my favorite holidays, Passover speaks to Jewish and non-Jewish folks alike in its beautiful message of hope and endurance. Over the years my friends and I have made additions to the traditions of the celebration. We have added a cup of wine to symbolize our respect for Miriam, Moses’ sister, who sang and danced in thanks when the children of Israel escaped the Egyptian army. Miriam’s cup also represents our sisterhood with women still in bondage around the world. We have added a slice of orange to the traditional Seder plate to represent our prayers and love for our gay family members and friends. We realize as we recite the time-honored words from the Haggadah that until everyone is free, no one is free. “Next year in Jerusalem” is one of the last sentences in the ceremony. To Jews the world over, this sentence speaks literally of hope to celebrate the Passover Seder next year in this sacred city. Metaphorically it speaks to us all of our hope of living in a peaceful world and in a spiritual place of connectedness with the Divine.
It is Palm Sunday as I write this. Christians today celebrate Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem singing songs of praise. For Jesus, that ride must has been bittersweet. Even as He knew He had reached many with his message of love, He must have known what awaited Him later in the week.
I can only imagine the confusion His disciples must have felt as Jesus broke tradition at the Passover Seder on that following Thursday night. The people attending that Seder spoke the same words that people the world over will speak tomorrow (Monday) night in 2014. Suddenly, the time-honored prayers spoken over the wine and matzos took on new words, new meanings, as Jesus said, “This is my blood. Drink it in remembrance of me. This is my body…..” Is it any wonder that confusion may have given way to fear? Who was this man they thought they knew so well, who had the gall to change such ancient words? Is it any wonder that Peter denied knowing him three times within a few hours of this event?
I cannot imagine the pain Jesus went through from the moment Judas kissed him until he was released from his suffering and taken from the cross by his uncle. Such torture is beyond my comprehension. I can never know where His spirit went and what happened to Him during those days His body laid in that tomb. But I do know that His resurrection has, for me, always been a symbol of hope, of promise that life is eternal.
On Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday, I have two music traditions to honor the Christian holy week. On Thursday, I drink a glass of wine and play the soundtrack to “Jesus Christ Superstar.” (I’ve been known to sing this really loudly with some of my theatre friends!) On Sunday morning, I play the soundtrack to “Godspell.” These traditions afford me the opportunity to pay my respects to both Jesus’ suffering and to his resurrection. They remind me there is always hope.