“In every generation, every person must see him or herself as having left Egypt,” – from the Seder (Passover) service.
Our journey through Lent is a journey of remembrance. We are just like the Jews in this. Part of the Torah was to teach your children the words of the Covenant, to bind them on your hands and on your forehead, to put them on the lintels of your doors. In Exodus 13:8, it even goes farther and tells the fathers what they ought to say, “And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt.'” And, yet, after the first generation, no one could say that phrase and be historically correct. Rather, the re-enactment of the Passover is so mystically connected to the Passover that it is possible for a Jew to say that s/he is the freed slave who is remembering their salvation. I am there with Moses. I am there with Aaron. Let me point out that something similar, but even stronger is present with Christians. “… Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast …” says 1 Corinthians. Where for the Jews it is mystical identification with the Exodus, with us it is the Body and Blood of Christ. The shadow of the Passover is made real in the presence of the Eucharist.
Lent is like a massive Passover dinner. During the whole of Lent we relive holy history; we relive the events that led to the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. That reminder is to help impulse us to work with God’s Holy Spirit and allow him to bring change to our lives. Among many Evangelicals there was a strong movement back in the 1980’s to celebrate a Christian Seder. I can remember how excited people would become at the thought of getting to celebrate an actual Passover. Now, looking back at it, I can both sympathize with the excitement, but yet shake my head at it. We have a Passover we can, and do, celebrate. It is called the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. Looking back, I suspect that this was a time when people were sensing that something was missing in their celebration of the new Passover, the Eucharist. Among Evangelicals, of course, the new Passover was little more than a quick few words with a fast partaking. Among some of the liturgical Christians who became involved with the Seder, I suspect that the over-simplified liturgies that came out of the 1960’s were part of the issue. Certainly there was a desire to experience something more mystical than what one typically experienced at worship. That was both laudable and yet a sad commentary on the state of worship.
The Exodus is a shadow of our salvation. The Eucharist is the presence of the future Kingdom of God, of the banquet in which we are fed by God himself. But, it is necessary for every person to see themselves as needing that salvation, that Exodus, that heavenly meal. Evangelicals are right. God has no grandchildren. “… every person must see him or herself as having left Egypt.” You do not simply inherit Orthodoxy. You do inherit its liturgies, its rites, its celebrations. But, you do not inherit Orthodoxy itself. You, yourself, must see yourself as needing to accept that salvation. For most Orthodox today, your parents have brought you into Orthodoxy. But, you must take over the responsibility. Lent is about owning up to our sin, our faults, our responsibilities. Lent is about remembering that we lived (or even are living) in Egypt and that we were led out of Egypt by Our Lord’s death and resurrection. You must see yourself as having left Egypt.