THE SECOND PART: THE MASS FORETOLD IN THE PASSOVER.
IV.—THE HISTORY OF THE HEBREW PASSOVER.
At the Last Supper, Christ celebrated the Passover according to the historic Hebrew rite coming down from patriarchal days, Moses and the prophets, and changed it into the Mass. Let us therefore see the history of the Passover.
The word in our translations of the Bible given as phase, pascha, means the Jewish Passover. The word comes from the Hebrew pesach, "to pass over," because the Lord " passed over " the Israelites' houses in Egypt signed with the blood of the paschal lambs, when he killed the first-born of every family and animal the night they were delivered from slavery 1 Sts. Augustine and Jerome held it means "to suffer," 2 and foretold Christ's Passion.
Our Bible says, "It is the victim of the passage of the Lord, when he passed over the houses of the children of Israel." 3 The Hebrew word means "he leaped over" or "did not tread on." 4 But it has another meaning: "to spare" or "to show mercy to," for the Divine Son that night "spared" and "showed mercy" to the Hebrews. 5 The word Passover is given forty-seven times in the Old Testament. 6
The Passover, still held by the Jews as their greatest religious feast—the anniversary of the delivery of their fathers from Egyptian bondage, falls each year on the evening of the 14th moon of the lunar month of Ab, or Nisan "sprouting." The Rabbis call it the Tecupha "Equinox;" the month corresponds to the last of March and the first days of April. 7 It is their Easter, the key of their calendar, and regulates all their movable feasts and fasts, as our Easter, to which it gave rise, governs our feasts, fasts, and movable seasons of the Church year.
Far beyond history, in prehistoric times, the patriarchs with roasted lamb and bread and wine celebrated the Passover. But the night of the flight from Egypt, when the Hebrews became a nation, God gave more minute details typical of the Redeemer's Passion, the crucifixion and the Mass. The prophets and holy seers of the Old Testament, directed by the Holy Ghost in Shekina form, added to the Passover ceremonial, till at the time of Christ it had become an elaborate and strikingly symbolic rite.
We must keep before our minds, that in Biblical writings, three chief objects were seen at the feast: the first night paschal lamb, the bread, the wine, and at the feast of unleaven bread, which lasted for a week, only the bread and wine. This first feast fell on Thursday the day before the crucifixion, and is forever enshrined in Christian writings under the name of the Last Supper or the Lord's Supper, which he fulfilled and changed into the Mass. 8
As the Last Supper was that Hebrew Passover with all its elaborate ceremonial, we will first see its history, trace it down the ages, and then describe how the Samaritans and Jerusalem Jews hold the solemnity in our day.
First the Bible gives a full account of the feast, 9 as it was held in Egypt. Then the unleavened bread is mentioned with the consecration of the first-born. 10 Under the name of feast of unleaven bread, it is united with the two other great feasts of Pentecost and the Sabbath, in which the lamb, in Hebrew taleh, is called "My Sacrifice." 11 The festival is brought into relation with the redemption of the first-born, and the words specifying the Easter lamb 12 are repeated. 13 The same is again given regarding the days of convocation, and laws regarding the offering of the first-fruits, the Biccurim, with the offerings accompanying it when the Hebrews passed into the Promised Land. 14 Again the Shekina "The Divine Presence" repeats the law regarding the Passover at the beginning of the second year after going out of Egypt, 15 and the second Passover, a month later, is ordered for those who could not hold the first. Rules are revealed regarding offerings made on each of the seven days of the festival. 16 The last divinely given direction states the place of sacrifice the Lord will later chose in the "Land of Promise," that is where the ark rested till placed in the Temple in Jerusalem where the Passover was celebrated in Christ's time. 17 Here more minute details of the festal ceremonial are given.
On the tenth day of the month of Nisan, the Hebrews were to select the lamb, for on this day Christ was condemned to death by the Sandhedrin at Jerusalem. 18 They were told to choose a little ram and keep it till the fourteenth day of the same month, in the evening, for at midnight, following that day, 1300 years later, Christ was arrested. The paschal festival lasted a week, because during Passion week, Christ was sacrificed, lay in the tomb and rose from the dead. 19
They sacrificed it in the afternoon, the Hebrew text having "between the two vespers." The "first vespers" among the Jews meant from noon till three, and the "second vespers" from three till night. At three in the afternoon, they were told to sacrifice the lamb, for, ages afterwards, at three o'clock, Jesus Christ, whom the lamb represented, died on the cross.
We find these two vespers mentioned in the Gospel, by the word "evening." 20 According to Hebrew ways of counting days, at sunset the next day began, and not at midnight. 21 This was the law relating to the feasts. 22 "From evening to evening you shall celebrate your sabbaths."
By the sacrifice and blood of the paschal lamb of the patriarchs, the Hebrews were delivered from Egyptian slavery. God himself laid down the ceremony of that sacrifice. The kind of lamb, the time, the place, the rite, the person to kill it, and the persons who could eat it, are all given with minute details. 23
Three directions God gives regarding the victim. It must be a male, for Christ was of that sex; it must be a year old, to tell that the Lord was sacrificed in the flower of his manhood; it must be without spot, stain, or blemish, to foretell the sinless Christ. 24 During night they flea from Egypt; then they were delivered from Egyptian slavery, to tell how in the last age of the Hebrew nationality in Palestine the Lord was arrested at night to be sacrificed, to deliver the world from demoniac slavery.
It was spring, the tenth day after the full moon, after the vernal equinox, when the earth is between sun and moon, so all could see, that the darkening of the sun when the Lord was dying was not caused by an eclipse; and the darkness of that Egyptian night when the Hebrews became a nation foretold the darkness at the crucifixion.
Although a lamb was ordered immolated to foretell the sinless Christ, they were allowed to sacrifice a kid as a victim for sin to shadow forth the Lord bearing the sins of the world. He was thus typified by Jacob clothed in kidskin, emblem of sin, when his father blessed him. 25 But the kid must also be a year old and without blemish. 26 The first night of the Passover these animals only could be offered. But the solemnity lasted from the 14th to the 21st day of the month of Nisan and sheep and oxen might be eaten the remaining days. 27 Each evening of that week, they held the feast in their houses and synagogues. That was the reason they would not enter Pilate's hall lest they might be defiled, and could not celebrate the remaining days of the Passover. They had all celebrated the ceremony of the paschal lamb the night before, and each night that week they were to offer the victims of peace-offerings, with wine and the unfermented bread. This week was called the feast of unleaven bread.
"Seven days you shall eat unleaven bread... The first day shall be holy and solemn, and the seventh day shall be kept with the like solemnity, you shall do no work in them, except those things that belong to eating." 28 Thus was the great Easter, a week lasting from the 14th to the 21st, kept by the Jews in all their generations, to prophesy our Christian Easter. The first and last days were like our solemn Sundays of Eastertide holiest time of the Church year. 29
The law was so strict, that the one who would not keep the Passover was to be put to death. "Whosoever shall eat anything leaven from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall perish out of Israel." 30 "He that eat leaven bread his soul shall perish out of the assembly of Israel, whether he be a stranger or born in the land." 31 In Christ's day the penalty was excommunication.
Circumcision was a type of baptism. Only the circumcised Hebrew could eat the lamb which pointed to Christ, and only the baptized should receive Communion.32
If a Hebrew were unclean, he could not partake of the feast. He went through the ceremony of being cleansed, and on the tenth day of the following month he could eat the lamb, for the Christian in mortal sin must not receive till he has been cleansed from sin by the sacrament of Penance.
Four places the lamb was sacrificed. The night the Hebrews went out of Egypt, the head of the family slew the lamb at the house, for the Hebrew priesthood had not yet been established, and, as in patriarchal days, the father of the family was then the priest. 33
They offered the next paschal lamb in the desert of Sinai, the second year after leaving Egypt. 34 Again, they offered it after passing the Jordan at Galgal "the Circuit," as they lay camped in the deep desert valley, with the tamarisks lining the shores of the historical river where Christ was baptized, to foretell Christians partaking of Communion.
After they conquered Palestine, they were told to sacrifice the lamb only in tabernacle and Temple. "Thou mayest not immolate the phase in any one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God will give thee, but in the place which the Lord thy God (the word translated here as God is the Shekina in the original Hebrew) shall choose that his name may dwell there. Thou shalt immolate the phase in the evening, at the going down of the sun, at which time thou earnest out of Egypt." 35 This command was given because the real Lamb of God, ages later, was to be sacrificed in Jerusalem, where the Temple stood. Till David chose Mount Moriah, in Jerusalem, for the site of the Temple, the tabernacle and ark of the covenant at different epochs rested at Galgal, Silo, Nobe, and Gabaon.
The night they went out of Egypt, this was the ceremonial : They cut the lamb's throat, caught the blood, "and put it on both the side-posts, and on the upper doorposts of the houses, wherein they shall eat, and they shall eat the flesh that night roasted at the fire, and unleavened bread and wild lettuce. You shall not eat anything thereof raw, nor boiled in water, but only roasted at the fire ; you shall eat the head, with the feet, and the entrails thereof. Neither shall there remain anything of it until the morning. If there be anything left you shall burn it with fire, and thus shall you eat it, you shall gird your reins, and you shall have shoes on your feet, holding staves in your hands, and you shall eat it in haste, for it is the Phase, that is the Passover of the Lord. And I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and will kill every first-born, both man and beast. I am the Lord, and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am the Lord.
"And the blood shall be unto you for a sign in the houses where you shall be, and I shall see the blood and shall pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you, to destroy you, when I shall strike the land of Egypt. And this day shall be for a memorial to you, and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord in your generations, with an everlasting observance. Seven days you shall eat unleaven bread," 36 etc.
When Moses delivered the divine message to the Hebrews, they bowed their heads and worshiped. They followed the instructions, killed, ate the lambs, and sprinkled the blood. At midnight, the hour Christ was arrested centuries later, when he began his Passion to deliver the human race, the first-born of every family, and of every animal in Egypt was killed, as a prophecy of the death of the Virgin's First-born on the cross. This is the reason that Christ is called the "first-born" seven times in the New Testament.
The general impression is that God sent an angel, called the "angel of death," to kill, that night. But this is not so. For the text reads: "I am the Lord . . . I shall see the blood, and shall pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you, when I shall strike the land of Egypt." 37
Jewish writers, as well as these words, show that God himself killed the first-born. And reading carefully their writings, we see that it was the Divine Son who passed through Egypt that night, when he delivered the Hebrews as a prophecy of the time when he, made flesh, by his death, delivered the whole human race from demoniac error, sin, and slavery.
The Hebrews celebrated the feast in Egypt on the fourteenth moon of Abib, or Nisan, 38 and the next day went out of Egypt. Then their slavery ended. "Now the children of Israel departed from Ramesses the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Phase, with a mighty hand, in the sight of all the Egyptians.'' 39 Following, then, the history of his forefathers and customs coming down the ages, the Lord and his disciples held the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month, and he died on the fifteenth to deliver the human race from the slavery of the devil and of sin represented by the Egyptian bondage.
The Hebrews did not go out the night they held the Passover, for they were told to remain within their houses. "Let none of you go out of the door of this house till morning." 40 The next day they began the march. All this foretold how, centuries later, Jesus Christ would celebrate the Passover with his disciples; that he would be arrested at night, and the next day, as the first-born, he died to deliver mankind from the bonds of sin, and slavery of the devil.
During the Passover 41 God gave directions they could not carry out that night; they related to future Passovers. They could not keep the next day, the fifteenth, as a feast, for they were then on their journey. 42 They could not offer the "first-fruits, the Omer, 43 for they were then traveling in the desert where nothing grows. They could not immolate the special sacrifices mentioned later, 44 nor sprinkle the blood on the altar in place of the doorposts.45
For these reasons Jewish writers carefully distinguish between the "Egyptian Passover," held the night of the flight from Egypt, and the "perpetual Passover," celebrated later in their history. Both clean and unclean celebrated the feast that night, but afterwards God gave them special regulations, 46 and restricted the feast to men alone. 47 Thus it came to pass that Christ with his apostles, no woman being present, held the feast in the Cenacle, and there he ordained only men, and from that came the doctrine that only men are valid subjects for the priesthood. The Psalms forming the Hallel were not sung that night, for only in David's day were they composed.
Birth and death, origin and end of life, were most unclean to the Jew. The first reminded them of the fall of man, that children are born in original sin; the latter that from the gates of Eden death with his icy hand strikes down every member of our race. 48 During the wilderness wandering, the second year after leaving Egypt some men touched a dead body, became defiled, and could not celebrate the Passover. 49 God told Moses to institute a second Passover on the fourteenth of the following month, giving a like ceremonial as for the first, and these men purified themselves and held the feast. As the first Passover foretold our Easter Communion, so the latter imaged the time to come, when Christians, who, because of sin, cannot make their "Easter duty," can confess and later receive the "Lamb of God."
Jewish writers name the first "the greater Passover," and the latter "the little Passover," this lasting but a day, the Hallel Psalms being sung while the lamb was being sacrificed, but not during the supper, nor was the leaven searched for. 50
1 Exod xii, 29. St. Augustine. Enar. I. in Psal. Ixviii. Ser. I. n. ii. Enar. in Psal. cxx. n. v. Enar. in Psal. cxxxvii. n. viii.
2 In Joan T. Iv., n. I. etc. Sermo xxxi. De Pascha, xi, n. I.
3 Exod. xii, 27.
4 St. Augustine, ibidem.
5 St. Augustine, Enar. I. in Psal. Ixviii., Sermo I. n. ii. iii. Sermo vii. De Pascha, n. i. etc.
6 See Migne's Cursus Comp. S. Scripturæ, vol. ii., p. 182 ; vol. iii. 1141, etc.
7 Zanolini, De Festis Judæorum, C. 4.
8 See S. Thomas, Sum., iii., q. 46, Art. 9 ad 1 et q. 74, Art. 4 ad 1, etc.. etc.
9 Exod. xii. 1-51.
10 xiii. 3-10.
11 xxiii. 14-19.
12 Exod. xxiii. 18.
13 xxxiv. 18-26.
14 Levit. xxiii. 4-14.
15 Numb. ix. 1-14.
16 Numb, xxviii. 16-25.
17 Deut. xvi. 1-8.
18 Exod. xii. 8.
19 Exod. xii 6.
20 Matt. xiv. 15-23.
21 See Levit. xxiii. 5, 6.
22 Levit. xxiii. 32.
23 Exod. xii
24 Exod. xii. 3-5.
25 Gen. xxvii. 16.
26 Exod. xii. 5: Levit. xxii. 19, 20, 21, 22.
27 Deut. xvi. 2, Numb, xxviii. 16, etc.
28 Exod. xii. 15,16.
29 Exod. xii. 17.
30 Exod. xii. 15.
31 Exod. xii. 19.
32 Exod. xii. 43, 44,48.
33 Exod. xii. 3.
34 Numb. ix.
35 Deut. xvi. 5, 6.
36 Exod. xii. 7-15.
37 Exod. xii. 12,13.
38 Exod. xii. 6.
39 Numb, xxxiii. 3.
40 Exod. xii. 22.
41 Exod. xii. and xiii.
42 Exod. xii. 16-51.
43 Levit. xxiii. 10-14.
44 Numb, xxviii. 16-25.
45 Deut. xvi. 1-16.
46 Numb, xviii. 11.
47 Exod. xxiii. 17 ; Deut. xvi. 16.
48 Gen. iii. 16-19.
49 Numb. ix.
50 Tal., Pesachim, ix. 3: Lex Tal., col. 1766. See S. Augustine, Ques. in Exod. 1. ii., Ques. xlii., Ques. in Num. 1, ix., Ques. xv.