An Expression of Jewish Faith

On some theological issues concerning Catholics celebrating the Jewish Pesach Seder

[1] Introduction. Some Catholics think the Jewish Pesach Seder is part of Holy Week's Liturgy because they usually do it during this week. Even some seminarians believe it is "ok" to do it for the sake of academic experience. There is a loophole in such a way of thinking incompatible with the Catholic faith and liturgical praxis. The author consulted Fr. Edward McNamara, a former professor of Liturgy and current dean at Pontifical Institute of Regina Apostolorum, regarding the propriety of a devout catholic (especially a priest) celebrating this Jewish practice. The author presented his theological views about this issue to Fr. McNamara and he generally concurs with them. This article points out some theological issues concerning Catholics celebrating the Pesach Seder.

[2] Christian Pesach Seder? As the Holy Week is coming near, some Catholics prepare for the Easter Triduum and the Pesach Seder before the Last Supper. There are also some members of religious congregations doing this Jewish celebration. Some articles are calling it a Christian Paschal Sedar. However, I have some reservations about calling it Christian and some Catholics re-enacting this noble Jewish practice.

[3] Jesus the origin. I agree that this Jewish celebration is a historical and cultural background of the Last Supper, but not the origin of the Eucharist but Christ himself. The Last Supper instituted by Jesus was a discontinuity of the Jewish Seder when Jesus consecrated the bread and wine into His body and blood. To call Pesach Seder a Christian is seemingly an insult to Jews. It is simply Jewish and that's all. A Christian doing the Seder does not make that practice a Christian.

[4] Faith in One God vs. Trinitarian. Underlying the Pesach Seder is the Jewish faith in God, who liberated them from the bond of slavery. Here comes the difference: the Jewish faith in one God differs from the Catholic faith in the one Trinitarian God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The Pesach Seder is not trinitarian, not Christological, and not Pneumatological. Therefore, it is a non-Christian practice.

[5] A Jewish faith. As I see, anyone participating in this Jewish celebration requires a Jewish faith. Otherwise, a group of Catholics doing this noble thing does not technically celebrate but perform it only like a play.

[6] Reply of Fr. Edward McNamara. [Dear Fr. Alfonsus] Although a priest could probably attend a Sedar if invited by Jewish friends (admittedly highly unlikely for faithful Jews), I would agree that it makes little sense to organize a “Christian Sedar” and this could even be interpreted as something offensive by faithful Jews as appropriating their religious symbols. In a way the Christian Pesach Seder is the Eucharist which has completely supplanted the earlier practice because Christ became our definitive Pasch and as Christians we celebrate the definitive liberation and the creation of the new people of God.


Fra Alfonsus D. Panaligan, OFMConv., SThD
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