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Faith Matters: A meal in the upper room

  • The Rev. Robert Koerber in the Holy Name of Jesus PNC Church on Thayer Street in South Deerfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Holy Name of Jesus PNC Church
Published: 4/5/2019 11:51:21 AM

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email


On Sunday, April 7, many Christian denominations will begin a two-week-long period known as Passiontide, which recalls the last two weeks in the life of Jesus the Christ, leading up to His Crucifixion. In these churches, all statues are covered in purple, as well as all crosses, making this a time of sorrow and sincere penitence in their congregations.

On this day, at 4 p.m., our Holy Name of Jesus Parish will host a “Meal in the Upper Room.”

This gathering will include representatives, both clergy and lay, from the various parishes of the Central Seniorate in the Polish National Catholic Church, who will participate. A modified meal of lamb stew will be prepared for those attending, along with foods that are an integral part of the Jewish Passover.

All participants will first gather in the Church proper prior to the meal to hear of the background and significance of the Jewish Passover. From a Biblical perspective, words are then read from the Book of Exodus 12:1-8. 17, where God first speaks to Moses and Aaron and tells how He mandated the Passover meal, which would be celebrated annually in remembrance of the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.

The foods of Passover and their significance are then explained. First is Z’roa, or lamb, signifying a symbolic offering to the temple; the Beitzah, or egg, a symbol of rebirth; the Maror, or bitter herbs, such as horseradish, which signifies the bitterness of enslavement; the Karpas, or non-bitter herb, where parsley is dipped in salt water representing tears, and finally Haroset, a mixture of apple, nuts and wine which represents the mortar and bricks used by the enslaved Jews in building the pyramids and other edifices in Egypt.

Finally, there is an explanation of the Last Supper of Jesus with His Apostles. All participants are asked to remain silent as they leave to travel to the meal, which is prepared in the parish hall. Each participant has an assigned place at this table. A candelabra, representing the sacred Menorah, is lit and all are seated. Throughout this meal, there are designated readers, who have been assigned with readings from the Jewish Hillel as well as New Testament readings from the Gospel of Saint Matthew and most particular, from the Gospel of Saint John recalling words that Jesus spoke to His first chosen at that Last Supper.

Upon completion of these readings and the Seder meal, all are reminded of the words of Jesus who instituted His everlasting presence in the Holy Eucharist on that night. Bread and wine are blessed, and passed to each person. When all this is completed, all are asked to reflect silently on what took place at the Last Passover of Jesus prior to his arrest, trial and crucifixion, and how they are united with Christ. The hymn “Do you Really Love Me” is then sung, beginning with one section of the common table, and then sung by each of the remaining sections, until the final verse is sung by all. There are two poems that are then read. The first is entitled “Gethsemane” which recalls what took place in the garden, where Jesus was arrested and the second poem “In His Steps” is read, which speaks of the steps of Jesus to His crucifixion. The concluding hymn, “Abide With Me, ‘Tis Eventide” is sung and after a few moments of silence, participants are given an opportunity to share. Then there is time for fellowship with all who had gathered.

The observance and significance of Passiontide, the Christian Seder, or for us the “Meal in the Upper Room” are all meant to bring our Christians, churches and all others closer to God. We learn that throughout the Liturgical calendar of the Christian church, there are many spiritual “ups and downs.” There is joy in the fulfillment of the promised birth of a special child in Bethelehem at Christmas, and there is a sadness, where this most special child, who taught and healed, in the end, was crucified.

In the final week of the “Great Lent,” also known as Holy Week, the church recalls first the joy and the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; a Last Supper on Holy Thursday, where Jesus promised a Comforter, a Spirit of Truth, who would come, abide and govern the church, and finally the rejection, the passion and the crucifixion of Jesus, who was to shed His blood for all of mankind on Good Friday.

At this Passiontide, the Christian Church has set this time aside as a period of deeper spiritual reflection, deeper understanding of what took place on Calvary Hill and finally, a deeper appreciation of how Jesus showed through His example of divine love and sacrifice, a Way of Truth and Life unto God.

Holy Name of Jesus PNC Church is at 15 Thayer St. in South Deerfield. Holy Mass is at 9 a.m. on Sundays. 413-665-2129.

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