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The celebration of the Last Supper by Jesus Christ with His disciples holds profound significance, particularly when understood in the context of the Jewish Passover. This historic event, recorded in the Gospels, is where Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist (Qurbana), a sacrament central to Christian worship. By examining the Last Supper against the backdrop of the Jewish Passover, we gain deeper insights into its meaning and importance.

The Jewish Passover

The Jewish Passover is one of the three pilgrimage feasts that the Israelites celebrated in Jerusalem (Lev 23:4-14; Deut 16:1-8). It commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt, a foundational event in Jewish history. Central to the Passover celebration is the sacrifice of a lamb in the Temple and its consumption as part of the Passover meal. This meal follows a specific order, known as the Seder, which includes 15 steps detailed in the Haggadah, a book that guides the ritual.

The 15 steps correspond to the 15th day of Nissan, marking the beginning of Passover, and the 15 semi-circular steps from the Court of Women to the Court of Israel in the Temple, where the Levites would sing the “Psalms of the Steps” (Ps 120-134) with musical instruments.

Preparations for Passover

1. Selection of the Lamb (10th of Nisan): Each family chose a one-year-old unblemished male lamb for sacrifice. In the case of Jesus, he was the unblemished Lamb of God, presented to the Temple on Palm Sunday, the 10th of Nisan. The lambs were slaughtered between the evenings of the 14th and 15th of Nisan. Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist on the evening of the 14th and was crucified on Friday, the 15th.

2. Searching for Leaven (13th of Nisan): The Jews were commanded to remove all leaven from their homes (Deut 16:4). Jesus cleansed the Temple of merchants on Palm Sunday, symbolically removing impurity.

3. Foot Washing (14th of Nisan): Customarily, a servant washed the feet of guests before the meal. Jesus performed this act for his disciples, teaching them the humility and servitude expected in their ministry (Jn 13:1-17).

4. Table Setting: The table was set with Charoseth (a sweet paste of fruits and nuts), unleavened bread, vegetables, vinegar (karpas), four wine cups, red wine, and candles. Participants reclined on cushions around a low table.


1. Kadeish (Sanctification): The head of the family takes the first of four cups of wine, pronounces a thanksgiving over it, and shares it with everyone. The four cups symbolize the four “I will” promises in Exodus 6:6-7.

2. Urchatz (Washing of Hands): Participants wash their hands to prepare for eating herbs dipped in saltwater, reflecting the necessity of cleanliness.

3. Karpas (Parsley): Karpas, dipped in saltwater, is eaten to symbolize the tears shed during slavery in Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea.

4. Yachatz (Breaking of the Middle Matzah): Three matzah loaves are used. The middle matzah is broken, symbolizing the broken body of Christ in Christian interpretation.

5. Magid (Storytelling): The Exodus story is recounted through a question-and-answer format, and the second cup of wine is consumed. The first half of the Hallel (Ps 113-114) is recited.

6. Rachtzah (Second Handwashing): Participants wash their hands again with a blessing, preparing to eat the matzah.

7. Motzi (Blessing for Bread): A blessing is recited over the remaining matzah bread.

8. Matzah (Unleavened Bread): Everyone eats a piece of the top and middle matzah while leaning to the left.

9. Maror (Bitter Herbs): Bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness of slavery, are eaten with charoset, a sweet paste representing the mortar used in Egypt.

10. Koresh (Matzah Sandwich): A sandwich of matzah with bitter herbs and romaine lettuce is eaten while leaning to the left.

11. Shulchan Orech (Dinner): The Passover lamb is served with unleavened bread and bitter herbs dipped in sauce.

12. Tzafun / Afikoman (Half-piece Matzah Bread): The hidden matzah is found and eaten, symbolizing the resurrection of Jesus in Christian interpretation. Jesus used this moment to establish the Holy Eucharist, saying, “This is my body” (Mt 26:26).

13. Barech (The Cup of Redemption): The third cup of wine is blessed and shared. Jesus instituted the second part of the Eucharist here, stating, “This is my blood” (Mt 26:27-28). They poured the fourth cup of wine and set aside an additional cup for the prophet Elijah.

14. Hallel (Praises): The remaining Psalms (115-118) are recited, and the fourth cup of wine is consumed. Jesus prayed about this cup in the Garden of Gethsemane, accepting it on the cross.

15. Nirtzah (Closing): The Passover ends with the words “It is finished” and a prayer of hope, anticipating the Messiah’s arrival. Jesus echoed this phrase on the cross, signifying the completion of His sacrificial mission.

Reclining at Passover

During Biblical times, participants reclined around a low table to signify their freedom from slavery. This was a departure from the original standing position during the first Passover in Egypt, reflecting their newfound liberty.

The Christian Perspective

For Christians, the Last Supper is not just a historical event but a pivotal moment that established the Holy Eucharist. Jesus’ actions and words during the meal fulfilled the symbolism of the Passover and inaugurated the New Covenant. As believers partake in the Eucharist, they remember Christ’s sacrifice, celebrate His resurrection, and look forward to His return.


Understanding the deep connection between the Jewish Passover and the Last Supper enhances our appreciation of the Holy Eucharist. It reminds us of God’s faithfulness, His deliverance, and the new life we have in Christ. As we partake in the Eucharist, let us do so with reverence and gratitude, mindful of the sacrifice that Jesus made for our redemption.

Reflecting on this profound mystery, let us also strive to live out our faith with sincerity and love, embodying the teachings of Christ in our daily lives. As we await His glorious return, may we continually seek to grow in holiness, love, and unity within the body of Christ.

The annual celebration of Passover is a profound reminder of God’s deliverance in both the Old and New Testaments. Each Holy Mass (Qurbana) is a re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice, bridging the Old Covenant Passover and the New Covenant established through His death and resurrection.

As Christians, we are called to reflect this dual aspect of sacrifice – through our participation in the Holy Eucharist and in our daily lives. Let us embrace the servant leadership modeled by Jesus, cleanse our hearts of all impurities, and offer our lives in sacrificial love for others. In doing so, we honor the memory of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and live out our faith in a way that brings glory to God.

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