With their plates full of matzo crackers and bitter herbs, St. Malachy’s students gathered for a Seder meal Thursday to celebrate Jesus’ last meal with his apostles.
According to St. Malachy Principal JohnWalsh, the Seder meal has been celebrated at St. Malachy’s school for 19 years. He said the Seder meal is where the Catholic Eucharistic feast, also known as “Holy Communion” originated from.
Students, who feasted on matzoh crackers, parsley, saltwater, horseradish and applesauce, took turns reciting readings that described the story of the Israelites exodus from slavery in Egypt.
Walsh said, for him, the most powerful phrase in the readings is, “Next year, may we truly be free.” Walsh compared the new-found freedom of the Israelites to the freedom one gains from their faith in Jesus Christ.
“We are a slave to sin,” said Walsh. “Jesus is the new passover. The new meaning. The way to freedom.”
Walsh said he thinks it is a great lesson for adults, too.
“It’s an opportunity to think about our own lives,” said Walsh. “To think about where we are with our faith and practices with our faith.”
The bitterness of horseradish on the matzo cracker and parsley dipped in salt water represented the bitter life of the Jewish ancestors. The applesauce was used to represent that even the most bitter things can be sweetened by hope in God. Grape juice, in place of wine, was consumed to represent the new-found freedom of the Israelites.
Catholics, who represent the majority of students at St. Malachy, celebrate Holy Week, which is the last week of Lent — a 40-day preparation period leading up to Easter Sunday, where Christians observe a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.
According to Christian scripture, Easter marks the last day of Lent, and is the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead after his crucifixion. The miracle depicted in Christian scripture is also celebrated by Catholics at home with long-standing traditions of sharing a meal, coloring hard-boiled eggs and giving baskets of candy.
With Easter approaching this weekend, some students at St. Malachy are excited.
First-grader Owen Allen attempted to explain why he celebrates Easter.
“Um, Jesus rose from the dead,” said Allen. “And then we have an Easter egg hunt.”
Fellow classmate Cece Zachary adds, “I think he (Jesus) gets arrested.”
“People didn’t like him (Jesus),” said third-grader Sophia Patterson. “They thought he was lying about being the son of God. So, they crucified him.”
Molly Sickels, who is in fourth grade, said few people believed Jesus was king of the Jews.
“The guards took him to Pontious Pilate, who condemned Jesus to death,” said Sickels.
Zachary said her family colors and hunts for eggs to celebrate.
“We have this special paint we can use,” said Zachary. “We do that (dye eggs) on Easter. “Sometimes before so the paint can dry. And we use them for our Easter egg hunt.”
Zachary also said her grandmother, Mary Jane Weisshaar, makes a three-layered cake to celebrate.
“I think it’s chocolate,” said Zachary.
Patterson said her family also celebrates with a “really special meal” and her favorite part of Easter is “having fun.”
“We bring my aunt, grandpa and grandma over,” said Patterson, “My mom and dad hide eggs around the house.”
Sickels said she likes to wake up to find an Easter basket of candy waiting for her. She said her 15-year-old sisters, Jamie and Josie, watch her hunt for eggs.
“They usually just go through their baskets and go back to bed,” said Sickels.
Sickels said her family gathers at Grandma’s house to eat ham and uses the opportunity to take photos. She said her favorite part of Easter was spending time with her little cousin.
Walsh said learning the origin of Catholic traditions are important lessons for the students.
“It’s a repeated lesson for them,” said Walsh. “It gains meaning over time.”