STA Forms I & II and NCS Grades 7 & 8 recently gathered in the Little Sanctuary for a special coordinate chapel service to help build friendships between students at the two schools. Student speakers shared their sacred traditions for observing Passover and Holy Week, the culmination of Lent in preparation for Easter.
By Jake ’27
Today, I want to talk about Passover. Passover is a holiday that is celebrated to commemorate when the Jewish people were freed from slavery. It is a time for families to come together and reflect.
Passover celebrates the story of the Exodus. According to the story, the Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt until Moses, their leader, demanded their freedom from the Pharaoh. After the Pharaoh refused to free the Jewish people, a series of plagues struck Egypt. The final plague was the death of the firstborn son in each Egyptian household. The Jewish people were instructed to mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood so that the Angel of Death would pass over their homes. The Pharaoh later agreed to let the Jewish people leave Egypt, and they were freed from slavery. The story of Passover is retold every year during the Seder meal, which includes symbolic foods and traditions that represent the story.
The Hebrew word seder means order. During the meal we retell the story of Passover by rereading scriptures and eating specific foods. On the seder plate you can expect a shank bone; bitter herbs (to represent the bitterness of slavery); haroset, which is a sweet paste; an egg; and vegetables. Families will typically eat this food as they retell the story and then move on to a main meal, which may include matzah ball soup, vegetables, and brisket. We also eat matzah, which symbolizes the bread that did not have time to rise when the Jews left Egypt. The seder helps us to cherish our family and pass on the traditions and stories to the next generation. We cherish this tradition by having the youngest member of the family read the five questions. One of the main lessons of Passover is the importance of spending time with family and members of your community. This helps to further strengthen your relationship with these people.
Another central lesson to learn from Passover is freedom. Retelling the story of Passover reminds us that we shouldn’t take freedom for granted and how the Jewish people needed to persevere in order to gain their freedom. This also helps us to remember the sacrifices and struggles of our ancestors. Additionally, Passover teaches us that we still need to use our freedom to fight for those that are oppressed.
Passover also reminds us of the power of faith. The Jewish people had faith that they would be freed from slavery, even when faced with obstacles. Passover teaches us that we should never lose hope and always have faith in ourselves and in something greater than us.
Lastly, Passover encourages us to cherish all the small moments in life. Passover is filled with small traditions and rituals, however they hold high significance. It helps us to slow down during our busy lives and cherish times with loved ones by sharing a meal together. We can all learn from Passover by living in the moment, keeping faith with God, and finding joy in the present.
Lent, Holy Week, and Easter
By Fleur ’27 (NCS)
Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter Sunday in the Christian faith. It is a time of remembrance and reflection and culminates with the end of the season of Lent and Easter. As we leave this season of Lent, I want to take a moment to reflect on what this time means. Lent is forty days of self-examination marked by relinquishing [old] habits and building new ones. Lent is an opportunity for introspection, to examine our patterns and focus on renewal. Lent requires contemplation, honesty, and most of all, recognization of all our faults and weaknesses.
I have heard that Lent is considered a period of unnecessary suffering. However, when I take a closer look at the purpose of Lent, I find that by recognizing my weaknesses, I can be honest with myself, making it easier for me to overcome them as I can identify them more quickly. I have a reading from Paul that we heard earlier that illustrates this process and how, due to Lent, Easter is all the more fulfilling.
“We … boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
The reason this quote speaks to me and demonstrates the reasoning behind Lent is due to its description of “suffering,” which can build character, hope, and love. For Lent, many break bad habits, which can be cumbersome, painful, and irritating. However, by not indulging in these things for forty days, you are enduring, and as the quote states “endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” For example, during my first “proper” Lent I wanted to pray every night. While this is such a simple task, I never found the time to commit to it, always using the excuses that I’d start later in the year during Advent, then Christmas, then New Year’s. But this time around, by praying every day, I had endured, and every night during my prayers, I was provided time to reflect on my day and focus on my spirituality.
Even though this action wouldn’t by any means be considered suffering, I still understood how difficult it was to take the steps of committing to a task and then going through with it. And proceeding to do this every year is endurance within itself.
This year I had no idea what to do for Lent and only a few days before Lent started, I noticed a recent trend. I am an avid reader and I love learning new things, specifically about history. But I had been struggling to finish my recent books and had lost interest in learning as I was burned out from school. So I decided that my goal for Lent would be to learn something new every day. While there have been highs and lows, my love of reading and history has been reignited. I have learned about the social history of tea, Japanese gods and myths, and Mesopotamian doctoral practices, to name a few.
By taking some time every day to read a few pages I have felt so much more energized, and I am already noticing how much easier it has been to remember and enjoy reading as I used to.
Seeing how these small decisions have helped me appreciate an important part of my faith, as I reflected on how great Christ’s decision was to die for mankind. For a long time, Jesus knew that he was going to die, and yet, he remained steadfast. While suffering in agony during his crucifixion, he still endured. I have grown to appreciate all the more how large his decision and his love must have been to do that for others. In conclusion, I cherish Lent for all these reasons, because [it] provides a time of reflection to make the world a better place through small acts.