Earlier in this study, we made a quick mention of the Passover. This reflection will discuss it in more detail and there will be another mention of it when we get to Pascha.
In Exodus 12, we read about the tenth plague that afflicted the Egyptians, the death of the first born sons. The children of Israel, (God’s chosen people) had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Think about that, 16 generations of slavery. They had long forgotten what it was like to be free. And many had probably long forgotten about God. After all, it is hard to muster up praise in the midst of oppression. God had chosen Moses to lead the people of Israel. He told Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that he let the people go. Nine times Moses went to Pharaoh. And nine times Pharaoh’s heart was hardened against Israel. Nine times the Lord, through Moses, afflicted Egypt with plagues. After each plague, Pharaoh would promise to let the people go. Again his hard would be hardened, and he would not let the people go. God told Moses that this tenth plague would be the plague that caused Pharaoh to finally let the people go.
The Lord told Moses that the angel of death would pass over Egypt and kill the first born son of each household. In order to prevent the angel of death from doing this in the houses of the Israelites, God told Moses that the people needed to spread the blood of a lamb over the door posts of their homes. The lamb needed to be without blemish, and the lambs would be slaughtered outside the wall of the city on a Friday afternoon. When the blood was spread over the doorposts, the angel of death would “pass over” those homes, only killing the first born son in the homes of the Egyptians.
Thus, the Jewish Feast of Passover was established, for Passover marked the day when the angel of the Lord “passed over” the houses of the Israelites and spared them from death. The Hebrews were to keep this feast each year, to remember what the Lord had done for them. Because as the years passed by and the generations continued, if the feast were not remembered, it might be forgotten.
Jesus was crucified on a Friday afternoon, during the feast of Passover. He was the Lamb of God, without blemish, killed outside of the city wall, just like the Passover lamb. In fact, He was killed at the same hour that the Passover lambs were being prepared. When He rose from the dead, He inaugurated a new feastday, the Resurrection. He inaugurated a new Sabbath, for now we do not honor God on the 7th day of the week, but on the first day, which in Greek is “Kyriaki,” the “Day of the Lord.” Christ is the New Passover, because by His blood we are saved. The Hebrew word for Passover is Pascha, which is the Orthodox word that describes the Resurrection. So Christ is the New Pascha, the New Passover.
Just like with the first Passover, we are to keep this day, Pascha, forever, throughout our generations, in order to remember what Christ did for us. The Holy Week journey is a long, deliberate, purposeful and intentional journey, not just recounting the events of the week of Christ’s Passion, but also touching on all of our Orthodox theology. Throughout the services, we hear references to the Virgin Mary, the Nativity, the Holy Spirit, the second coming, the talents we’ve each been given, repentance, betrayal, darkness and light, tragedy and triumph. This journey is put on the liturgical calendar not only for us to rejoice and renew, but specifically for us to remember what Christ did for us.
The third stanza of the Lamentations is affectionately called “E Genee Pase,” or “All Generations,” to remind us that in all generations we are to remember what God did for us two thousand years ago.
We learn history so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. It is also important to know our past so that we know where we come from, so that we can also know where we are going and why. Understanding the crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, which we learn more deeply each time we celebrate Holy Week, will help us know where we come from and where we are going. As we get older, we will take different and hopefully deeper thoughts away from the experience. This is why we make this journey and sing these hymns in “all generations.”
We worship the Father, and His Son and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, One in essence, crying out with the Seraphim: “Holy, Holy, Holy are You, O Lord.” (Evlogetaria, Lamentations, Good Friday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
In our fast-paced world, where we are constantly being distracted, it is important for us to slow down and remember what Christ did for us, so that we can thank Him, learn more about Him, feel closer to Him, be more committed to Him, and not repeat the same mistakes that happened two thousand years ago.