Last night Sheri and I attended Alpine Anglican's "Instructional Seder." Basically, we followed Jewish Passover traditions (including FOUR glasses of red wine!), and Father then gave us additional information that linked the Passover traditions to the institution of the Lord's Supper from the Gospels. Old and New Testaments, perfectly linked!
We ate the bitter herbs that symbolized the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt. We dipped parsley into salt water and ate it; the parsley represents new life, and the salt water the bitter tears shed by the Israelites in their enslavement. We ate matzoh, unleavened cracker-type bread, because the Egyptians fled Egypt so suddenly that they had no time to allow their bread to rise. We ate this sweet apple-nut mix that represented the mortar that the Israelites used in their slavery to the Egyptians. We read lots of prayers and Scripture (and drank lots of wine! -- no wonder St. Paul had to caution the Corinthian church to beware of drunkeness!).
The two most interesting aspects for Sheri and me were the ones that demonstrated the relationship between the Jewish practice and Christian Communion. When Christ broke the "bread" during the Last Supper Passover meal, he was breaking and sharing the "afilkomen," the special bread set aside as a symbol of the coming Messiah. So by breaking that certain piece of unleavened bread that is set aside earlier in the Passover service and sharing it with His disciples, Jesus was proclaiming Himself as the "Bread of Life," and therefore His Messiah-ship. The second interesting aspect was related with the wine, the cup that Christ shared with His disciples. The cup that He raised and declared as "the blood of the new covenant" was Elijah's cup, the cup set aside at the empty place left for Elijah who was to herald the coming of the Messiah to Israel. So when Christ took the cup of wine reserved for Elijah, again He was proclaiming Himself the Messiah. So by taking these elements that were set aside to demonstrate the waiting for the Messiah to arrive and calling them "My body" and "My blood," Christ was telling His disciples in still another way Who He truly is: "the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world."
Tonight I attended the Maundy Thursday service with the Alpine Anglican group at Victoria House, the rectory. ("Maundy" comes from the Latin word for "command," for on the night He was betrayed, Christ commanded His disciples to "love one another.") About eight of us gathered around the Ackers' dining room table, and besides the Scriptures we read (John 13 especially), the only difference between this service and any other Communion service was the Foot Washing. Father Acker asked each of us to remove one sock and shoe, and he knelt before each of us, with an apron tied around his waist, and washed our feet with a china pitcher and basin. After he dried each person's foot, he kissed it and then said, "Thank you for your service to Our Lord." It was an act of humility that brought me to tears (which come quite easily to me anyway), and his mini-sermon afterward about how we all serve the Lord through our lives had the same effect. It was a blessed service, my favorite of Holy Week, in fact. Not sure why -- it's just so personal between us and God, I think. To imagine being in that upper room and having the Messiah washing feet, the lowest job for the lowest servant in the home -- it just gives me chills to think of it!
A Passover Seder and a Maundy Thursday Foot Washing and Communion Service -- it's been a blessed Holy Week thus far!