Day 34: The Passover Instituted

Exodus 12:1-28 God initiated the Passover feast as a means of protecting the Israelites against the tenth plague, which would liberate them from the Egyptians, and he instructed the Israelites to celebrate the Passover annually as a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt. With the imminent departure of the Israelites from Egypt, the meal recalled the urgency of its preparation; there was no time to season the food or wait for the effects of leaven in their bread, and they were to consume the meal dressed as though they were about to undertake a journey. Other elements, such as the bitter herbs, were to remind them of the bitterness of their slavery and their poverty. Verses 1-8 and 11-14 are read in the liturgy on Holy Thursday. (CCC 1081, 1164, 1363-1364)

Ch 12:3-14 The unblemished lamb, slain and consumed in the Passover meal, is a type (TYPOLOGY!!) of Christ, the Lamb who was crucified so we could PASS OVER from sin and death into new life. The “cup of blessing” added later to the Passover celebration, anticipated the Blood by Christ shed on the Cross, and the unleavened bread and the cup of blessing prefigure the Eucharist (TYPOLOGY!!). This relationship is emphasized in the Agnus Dei within the Communion Rite: 

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,

Have mercy on us…Grant us peace.”

(CCC 128-130, 608)

Ch 12:15-20 The celebration of Passover begins the weeklong Feast of the Unleavened Bread in which no leaven can be used or stored in the home. In the Latin Rite and some Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, the bread used for the Eucharist is UNLEAVENED. (CCC 1334)

Leviticus 9:24 God himself brought down fire to burn the offering upon the altar. This would be borne out when Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume the holocaust (cf. 1 Kgs 18:15-40). (CCC 696, 2583)

Psalm 114 Water as an image of salvation permeates this psalm. It recalls how the water of the Red Sea receded to allow Moses and the Israelites to make their escape out of Egypt; these same waters came rushing back to drown the pursuing chariots of the Egyptian army. After forty years of wandering, it was the Jordan River that receded to allow the people of Israel to pass into the Promised Land. Between those singular events was the incident at MERIBAH, when on God’s command Moses struck the rock from which water gushed out, refreshing the thirsty people. Water is the symbol of Christian Baptism, by which we are reborn into the life of Christ as children of God with ALL SIN WASHED AWAY. 

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Key Event 18: Exodus and the First Passover (Exodus 12:1-14:31)

God instructs the Israelites to slaughter an unblemished lamb and smear its blood on the doorposts and lintels, and they are to eat the lamb along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Because they do so, the angel of death “PASSES OVER” the homes of the Israelites, slaying only the firstborn of the Egyptians. This final plague sets in motion Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt.

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

Prayer by Fr Mike:  "Father in Heaven, we give you thanks and praise. We thank you so much for your Word. We thank you for what you reveal to us about our lives in your covenant with the people of Israel. They are your chosen people. You are faithful to your covenant always. You have fulfilled your covenant, the covenant that you sealed with the Passover lamb, you fulfilled that in the NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT with the blood of the TRUE LAMB OF GOD who takes away the sins of the world, your son Jesus Christ. That new and eternal covenant, the covenant of The Eucharist, the covenant that is established in the Mass, that we are brought into and that renews our reception into your family. Lord God, help us to always always see your working in our lives and to always approach the Eucharist worthily, to always approach the Mass with hearts that are open and with hearts that have been made new by your Grace. We make this prayer in Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen."


Many of us grew up reading the story of Moses, and how the Passover involved killing a lamb, spreading it's blood on the doorposts and lintel, so the angel of death would pass over the house and spare the first-born son.  And we are accustomed to referring to Christ as the "Lamb of God," and maybe we were familiar with Paul referring to Christ as "our paschal [passover] lamb" in 1 Corinthians 5:7.  What didn't occur to me growing up was the Passover didn’t end with just spreading the blood on the doorposts. Everyone had to also EAT THE FLESH of the Lamb. When I first read this detail, I felt like it all suddenly clicked, and I saw how the Eucharist I partook of each Sunday was in fact, mysteriously the flesh and blood of Christ, our pashal lamb.

Verse 16 stuck out to me, how holy assemblies would meet and rest on not only the seventh day of the festival, but also the first day. It called to mind how the Sabbath was the holy day of rest and worship in the Old Covenant, and the Lord’s Day is the new holy day of rest and worship, and why.

"For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed." (1 Corinthians 5:7) And like the Passover lamb of old, our Passaover lamb to did not have a single bone broken.

Another detail the Passover Lamb and the Eucharist both share: no one outside of the covenant may eat of it. They had to enter the covenant through circumcision. Likewise, to partake of the blessed Sacrament, one must be baptized into the New Covenant and in full communion with Jesus and his body, the Church.

In Leviticus 9, the Greek Septuagint uses the word "poeio" for "offer" when speaking off offering a sacrifice. This is the same greek word the New Testament authors use in the Last Supper accounts when Jesus says "DO this in remembrance of me," showing that this instruction has priestly undertones of the new sacrifice they will be making from now on- "Offer this in remembrance of me," (remembrance also is a particular Old Testament sacrifice, but more on that later)

Verse 8 calls to mind how Baptism fulfills circumcision as our rite of initiation into the New Covenant. Circumcision was done using flint knives, and baptism is done using water.