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Why the Catholic Jew, Saved by the Cross, Still Rejoices on Passover

Why should the Jew who has been saved by Jesus celebrate his redemption from Egypt? What meaning could the statement in the Haggadah that we should regard ourselves as having participated personally in the Exodus, possibly have for him?  What can the redemption from Egypt give him that he has not already received through the Cross?  

The Incarnation glorified man, revealing in man the Glory of G-d.  The Exodus glorified creation (though, to be sure, not in the same way. G-d did not become incarnate in creation.) by revealing through creation the Glory of G-d. The miracles we witnessed in Egypt revealed the world in a new way, as a manifestation of Divine Power, as an icon of G-d.  The commandments we were given on Mt. Sinai merely confirmed and addressed what we had learned in Egypt:  that to act in the world is to engage with G-d.

But that new awareness of the Divine foundation of creation could also lead to a new and sinful way of seeing the world, for it gave more importance to the created world than it ever had before. Even when a Jew turns away from G-d, he does not turn away from the world. He remembers the lesson we learned in Egypt, that the world is very important. Only now, rather seeing its importance as a witness to its Creator, he takes interest in the world for its own sake. We, in our time, so dominated by technology, have a special and pressing need to be redeemed from that sin (we call its secularism) of addressing the world without addressing G-d through the world.

When G-d exalted man by becoming one of us, He lifted us so far above the world—above worldliness—that the faithful Christian can no longer take any real interest in the world for its own sake. The Cross saves the Catholic Jew from that sin of secularism, a sin that tempts Jews more than others, because it was made possible through an event in Jewish sacred history, the Exodus, when the world was revealed as a garment of G-d. But Christian faith does not save us from suffering the corruption caused by sin that blinds us to the Glory of G-d which the world was created to reveal.

No faithful Catholic can feel quite at home in a world that conceals its Maker. For him, this world is an exile. In Hail, Holy Queen we call ourselves “poor banished children of Eve,” and referring to our lives in this world, say, “after this, our exile...”. Indeed, the deeper his faith, the more profoundly  he experiences that exile, because the deeper his faith, the less inclined he is to take an interest in the world for its own sake while, at the same time, finding it difficult to see through the created world to the G-d whom he loves and yearns for.

The redemption from Egypt saves the Catholic Jew from just that exile. He was redeemed from that exile when the Creator of the Universe descended (at the burning bush, at Mt. Sinai, and through the many miracles of the Exodus) to reveal the Creator behind nature.  Redeeming us from Egypt, G-d drew us out of a world that concealed Him and, dwelling among us in the desert and instructing us in His commandments, took us into a world that bore witness to Him.  

The observance of the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. There are two reasons that we keep the Sabbath (both mentioned in the Ten commandments): to bear witness that G-d created the world and to bear witness to our redemption from Egypt.

[11] for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20)

[15] You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deut. 5)

The observance of the Sabbath on the Seventh Day is the only one of the Ten Commandments that is not universal.  The Law of Christ as taught by the Church universalized the Law of Sinai (as Cardinal Ratzinger explains)  but replaced the Sabbath of Creation with a Sabbath of Redemption because the revelation of G-d through His Incarnate Son reveals G-d through the body of a man, not through the natural world which surrounds him.  On the L-rd’s Day the Christian rests in G-d revealed through the glorified body of the Risen L-rd, not in G-d revealed through the created world by the events of the Exodus. Only the Jew who knows G-d  through the redemptive assertion of His Power and Majesty as Creator of the Universe (not merely through the contemplation of nature) can rest in G-d revealed through the created world. Only a Jew can keep the Sabbath of Creation.

PassoverSo the Catholic Jew has good reason to celebrate his redemption from Egypt, for it is a redemption for which even the faithful Catholic yearns, a redemption from the exile of living surrounded by a world that conceals its Maker.  

The Jew circumcises his son, not because G-d commanded Abraham to do it, but because, when the Torah tells us the story of that command, it renews and reaffirms it. Similarly, the Catholic Jew keeps the Torah not because it was given on Mt. Sinai, but because Jesus reaffirmed all the commandments of Sinai. The Catholic Jew keeps the Torah by the power of Jesus’ command, empowered by Jesus command to keep it in a new and very personal way.

Jesus commanded us to keep the Sabbath. Even though we see him disputing the way the Sabbath should be kept (His teaching is actually written into the law of the Sabbath as we have it from the Talmud), he never disputed the obligation to keep it. So, the Catholic Jew keeps the Sabbath not as a precursor to his Christian faith, but as an expression of his obedience to Christ. He keeps the Sabbath because Jesus said so (He said so when he reaffirmed the validity of the commandments in Matthew 5, when he declared himself the Lord of the Sabbath in Mark 2,  and when he commanded the Jews to obey the teachings of the Pharisees in Matt. 23).  And why did he say we should keep the Sabbath? In order to reaffirm the relevance of the redemption from Egypt even for those Jews who have been saved by their Christian faith. Even the Jew who has been saved by Jesus needs to be redeemed from Egypt!

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