Pesach and Easter 2021 – Let’s Celebrate!

This year, the major Jewish holiday of Pesach (Passover) and the celebration of Holy Week for many Christians are occurring simultaneously: Passover begins on Saturday the 27th at sundown, Holy Week commences with Palm Sunday on the 28th and both finish on April 4th. So other than sharing the calendar every once in a while, how are these celebrations connected?

On March 10th we learned some of these connections during the first of lecture series 2021 with Prof. Noam Zion of the Shalom Hartman Institute about The Paschal Seder At Home. Professor Zion talked about Jewish tradition as anything but static and sighted the evolution of the Passover meal as a remarkable example of such vitality; the transformations of Biblical Lamb to the Temple Sacrifice to the Rabbinic Symposium to the family Seder around the table at home as a sacred place for Jewish learning. Given the centrality of the Last Supper and Easter to Christianity, it is illuminating to see what Passover was before Jesus’ death in the Torah and in the Temple and how it was repurposed and adapted as an educational opportunity for intergenerational telling by the Rabbis after the Temple’s destruction. Prof. Zion left us with the understanding that there are overlaps and deep similarities between these two important holidays but also vast differences. This lecture was an exclusive event organized for this years’ cohort of Russell Berrie Fellows and our network of John Paul II Leaders in Interreligious Dialogue, but if you would like to watch Prof. Zion’s full lecture to learn more, please check out our Vimeo.

Thinking about the Holy Week and upcoming Easter Sunday, some Russell Berrie Fellows shared with us what they enjoy the most about these days.

Fr. Baiju Julian from India says “ I do really enjoy the rich and meaningful celebration of Easter” and acknowledges that “As a Catholic Priest and now all the more as a student of Russell Berrie Interreligious studies, I understand how much the religion of Christianity owes to Judaism for its basic foundation.”

Christopher Knight, from Cameroon, enjoys Holy Thursday because it recalls the story of the institution of the Holy Eucharist. His favourite Easter song is Christ the Lord is Risen Today by Charles Wesley (1739) and he recommends you check out this upbeat modern version found here.

Nigerian fellow *Fr. Emmanuel Aguiyi*’s favorite aspect of Easter liturgy is the Light Ceremony outside the Church at the beginning of the Holy Saturday liturgy. He says “The feeling of the night being illuminated with a raw burning fire seems quite significant as Christ’s light drives away the darkness of our hearts.”

Sr. Mary Ogeyi Odey, who is also from Nigeria, also enjoys the Holy Saturday vigil, explaining that “This night is celebrated in my country with great joy and enthusiasm. Neophytes are born into the Church on this night. On that night I waited anxiously for the Exultet.” The light liturgy ends inside the Church with Exultet, a solemn song that recalls our redemption and summarizes the whole Paschal event. If you would like to hear Easter Proclamation/Exultet sung beautifully in Igbo, Sr.Mary’s local language, check out this video.

On Easter Sunday morning, Fr. Baiju’s favorite song is this delightful rendition ‘Ponnoliyil’ from ‘Qom – He is Risen’ sung by 310 vocalists.

Sr. Jisha Jacob, from India, says that when Christ is risen “We have the possibility of opening our hearts and receiving His gift of Hope. Let us open our hearts to Hope and go forth.” In India, especially in Kerala, the Catholic believers who belong to three rites (Latin, Syro Malabar, Syro Malankara) strictly follow the practice of fasting for 40 days of lent. What better way to celebrate the end of Lent and Jesus’s resurrection than to try a new delicious recipe? Check out Sr.Jisha & Fr. Baiju’s recommendations for Easter dishes from Kerala:

May we wish you Chag Pesach Sameach and a Blessed Easter!