The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.
The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
For the Jewish mind, to “remember” was literally to recall, to bring back to their present reality the action of God many years before. In that very recalling, the mystery and its power is present. As Walter Cronkite used to say: “You are there.” Our faith tells us that we are now present to God’s action, and take part in it.
This mystery of our faith is not a fairytale but a sacred reenactment of the Last Supper and the Passover put together. Jesus offers himself as the Paschal Lamb whose blood will save the Apostles just as the Israelites were saved and the Good Thief was saved. Jesus offers his life for the salvation of the world. Thus we take and eat and drink the blood of the Lamb as the Jews did on Passover. God’s Living Word enters our life and changes it. We can only say Amen!
—Fr. Karl Voelker, SJ, is on the staff of the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.
By his word the Word almighty,
Makes of bread his flesh indeed:
Wine becomes his very life-blood:
Faith God’s living Word must heed!
Faith alone may safely guide us
Where the senses cannot lead.
—Pange Lingua (Sing, my Tongue), verse 4 by St. Thomas Aquinas