On Holy Thursday, my family prepares for the evening Mass with a Passover reenactment and reflection. The super-rich evening liturgy assumes the Last Supper setting at every point, but we like to underscore that fact with a little drama in the home.
On the one hand, the Seder is not a Passover meal, because the Passover was a sacrificial banquet, and for sacrifices you have to have the Temple. No, the Seder is a Jewish ritual that was invented after the destruction of the Temple and after Christ had ascended and Christianity was already being preached to the world as something different from Judaism. There is no reason a Christian would celebrate a Seder.
On the other hand, the “Christianized Passover” is the Mass. Christ himself “Christianized” the Passover, so it’s kind of silly for Christians to pretend to do that for him. If you want a Christianized Passover, go to the Holy Thursday evening liturgy.
What we do at home on Holy Thursday is best called a Passover re-enactment. We try to re-enact what Jesus and his disciples would have done at dinner that night as a way to prepare our minds for what the Church offers us in her liturgy. It’s a devotional prep for the evening. We look forward to it every year!
Here’s how we do it. Everyone who participates in the Passover re-enactment gets this slim handout, which explains both the actions and the foods; you can print it on one double-sided sheet. The cook will need this food list, which has some practical notes on how to prepare things. The leader can look at this really detailed overview of the Passover ceremony for background; at the end, I’ve tucked in a bibliography of sources I used in reconstructing the ritual. When I lead people through the devotion for the first time, I often base my comments on this article, which I published some time ago in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review.
Do you have any special family traditions for the Triduum? Let me know in the combox. I’d love new ideas for Holy Thursday and Good Friday in particular.