The Mystery of Zikaron.

“How is this night different from all other nights,” asks the youngest member present.       The father answers, “Because of what the Lord our God did for me when I came out of Egypt.”    – From the traditional Passover Seder, the “Mah Nishtanah”.

I would like to tell you that the dinner party ended with everyone singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’. That did not happen.   The problem with dinner parties, is that since you are seated and eating you just can’t excuse yourselves and disappear. I was trapped and they were not happy that I was there.   I am not saying they were beaten with my argument for Catholic’s love of Mary but they were angry just the same.

Then without a word, the host of the dinner party got up and left the table.   He returned to his seat a few minutes later with a brown leather book.  

   HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL, he went and got his bible!

He opened the good book and read from Romans 6:9-10. “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he can no longer die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once and for all.”   Then he closed the book, set it next to his plate and smiled with a smug air of fait accompli.   Everyone else smiled in agreement.

Take that Catholic! Go straight to purgatory. Do not pass the confessional. Do not collect 200 saintly relics or miraculous medals.

I looked around. What did I miss?   Ok. So?   I agreed with the verse. I loved the words.   I would not be able to argue with it since I did not understand how they felt the Catholic Church was violating this word of God and they were not offering any argument as if it were all self-evident. Whatever quoting this scripture implied I suspected the source was Pastor Jerry’s teachings and I responded the only way I knew at this point – sarcasm.

“Well, we have our Pope and you have yours.”

“We don’t have a pope,” they cried.

Boy, talk about touchy!

“Yes you do, Pope Jerry,” I answered.

Now I have gone and done it, they were stunned and doubly angry. The hostess of the party broke the stony pause.   “Yes, we must be careful to not accept everything someone tells us without searching the word of God for ourselves. And we certainly want Mary to know she is a welcome guest in our home.” With that the discussion unhappily subsided.

It would be years before I understood why this bible verse was the root of their consternation with Catholicism that evening.   You see, since the Catholic Mass consists of offering the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus in the form of bread and wine, in their minds, the scripture of Jesus dying once and for all, meant that Catholics were trying to crucify Christ over and over again. This argument shows their lack of understanding of the mystery and spiritual power of the zikaron.

The Jewish faith taught that unless a person had been present at the first Passover, they could not be authentic Jews.   The only way this could be possible was for Jews at Passover to participate in a very special form of remembrance, called zikaron.   By the power of this remembrance they would become spiritually present at the original Passover. Every Jew at the time of Jesus understood this since they were commanded by Moses to tell their children at Passover, that the night was different because of what God did for ‘me’. Exodus 13:8   The First century book, the Mishnah explained it by saying, every Jewish man must regard himself as being physically and spiritually present at the original Passover and exodus from Egypt.

At the new Passover, when Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me,” he is invoking the zikaron.   We celebrate the passion of Christ at every Mass, but the passion is not a different passion but the same one that once and for all happened 2,000 years ago.  How can this be?   Time, like mass and speed are part of the physical universe. God who created time is timeless and transcends time and space so that we can be spiritually present at the last supper and the crucifixion. What a wonderful gift we have been given and yet such a mystery.   It is so much more than remembering or re-enacting an historical event. It is the spiritual participation in the actual event.   How?  Because He who is will always be, now and forever.  The mystery of zikaron has been given to us, so let us not take it for granted.

It is one thing, indeed, and necessary that we read the bible as 21st Century, English-speaking, technologically advanced peoples.  But this is not enough, for if we fail to understand the frame work of the old Passover that God created to bring his Son into the world to save us from sin and death with the new Passover, then we miss and even misinterpret what the word of God is actually saying and thereby falsely accuse our brothers and sisters in Christ of evil while inadvertently creating heresy.

Scripture verses:

  • John 8:56 – 58
  • Deuteronomy 6: 20-21
  • Luke 22:19
  • Exodus 13:8
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