The mystical sadness of our annual Tenebrae liturgy is very meaningful to many of us. This was not different when we gathered on Maundy Thursday in the sanctuary, with the cross and its black shroud above our heads.
What was different, however, was the setting: Three long dinner tables with candles, wine glasses and a nice tablecloth were set up below the cross. And there we gathered – thirty of us, to celebrate a Christian Seder that led us to the somber beauty of Tenebrae. Both were connected with pieces from Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, performed by our Senior Choir led by its able director, Ben Berman, and John Coakley with the solo clarinet. Why a Seder? The reasons were manifold: Passover and Holy Week coincided this year more than in others. We wanted to celebrate an interfaith event. Some of our members have Jewish spouses.
And we realized in many ways the crucifixion of Christ continues the ancient Exodus tradition of Israel: Moses led the Israelites out of bondage from Egypt; Jesus liberated us from our insurmountable distance to God. Ethel Salamone summarized it all when she said, “Our Seder brought Jews and Christians together, and we saw where we came from.”
It was a fun and sad event at the same time, bitter sweet as was much of the symbolic food on our Seder plates. The high point was the meal of lamb shanks carefully prepared by Ethel and her team of women. It was served from a number of steam tables next to the chancel area. My daughter, Lily, brought it to a point by saying, “It felt like we were eating in the presence of God.”