There are many opinions about which day Jesus celebrated his Last Supper. I personally believe it was on the second night of Passover (16th Nisan) and it was a Passover Havurah Meal. I have previously written about it on this blog in an article titled 'Is the 16th of Nisan the Day of the Crucifixion'. Much discussion is made by theologians and scholars about the differences between the Synoptics and John. This confusion is due to people not understanding that the Sabbath within Passover was an especially holy day. Recently I wrote on the Hebrew Catholic Discussion Board about this Sabbath Within Passover (Shabbat Chol Moed Pesach).
"...At the time of Jesus people came for a whole week of festivities (unlike today) and each day would have had special events and traditions associated with them and the great Sabbath within Passover would be especially holy. Once the Jews were in the Diaspora and couldn't have a whole week off for celebrations the feast was truncated into events on the first two days, the Passover within Shabbat and the last two days. Of course the Sabbath could overlap with the first two days and the last two days. I also think people forget that there was a lamb sacrificed every day at 3 in the Temple (as well as 9 in the morning). There would also be Passover lamb sacrifices every day of Passover as well as the sacrifice of the Passover Seder lambs (Pesach Korban) on the 14 Nisan from about 1.30-5. The daily sacrifices were called the Korban Tamid which can be translated as Perpetual Sacrifice which I think fits very nicely with the Sacrifice of the Mass and Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. With the Korban Tamid lambs was also offered bread cakes made of flour and oil and also a wine libation was offered..."
John 19 states that Jesus was crucified on Preparation Day of the Passover. Preparation Day is always on the Friday before the Sabbath. The day before Passover (Pesach) is not Preparation Day. A better translation would be the Preparation Day for the Sabbath within Passover. On this special Sabbath the Song of Songs is chanted with a special cantillation just for this day. It is a High Mystical Day in which one focuses on the mysteries of forgiveness and communion with God through a meditated reading of Parashat Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35) and later with the Divine Nuptial Mysteries of the Song of Songs and the mysteries of the Resurrection in the Haftarah reading (Ezekiel 37).
I was pleased to see my point demonstrated by Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer in his article titled "Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach." He writes:
"....The morning Torah reading of Shabbos Chol Ha-moed (Sabbath of the Intermediary Days of Passover) consists of selected portions from Parshas Ki Sisa (Parashat Ki Tisa or Portion beginning "when you take" in Exodus 30). The conclusion of the kriah summarily addresses the Shalosh Regalim (Three Pilgrimage Feasts), and this would seem to be the relevance of the reading to the day. However, the first six aliyos (aliyot or readings) have nothing to do with Yom Tov (High Holy Day); rather, they deal with Moshe's (Moses') supplication to Hashem (God) to forgive the Jews for the Chet Ha-egel (sin of the Golden Calf) and the grand rapprochement between God and His people. Is there thus any other connection between the Torah reading and the Moed (Intermediate Days)?
Shabbos Chol Ha-moed (as well as Shabbos which coincides with Yom Tov) is unique, for the character of the day is not just that of Shabbos (Sabbath) as its own day alongside that of Moed (Intermediary Days), in which the two days and their respective themes exist on their own. On the contrary, when Shabbos and Moed are joined, they fuse to create a new, unparalleled kedushah (holiness or sanctity) and status. Please allow me to explain.
Shabbos is symbolized by its coming to the Jews. We go out to greet the Shabbos Queen, who is already on her way to us, and we welcome malachim to our homes on Friday night. Yom Tov is quite the opposite, for it requires that we ascend to Yerushalayim and enter the realm of the Shechinah. Rather than God sending his kedusha our way, we must go up to it and greet Hashem at His place.
Thus, when Shabbos and Yom Tov coincide, we rise and approach God (in the kedusha (holiness) of Yom Tov), and He also comes to us (Shabbos). The closeness between Hashem and the Jew which is precipitated is qualitatively different than that which is created by the separate kedushos (holinesses) of Shabbos or Yom Tov on their own. It is, rather, a new closeness, and this closeness is mirrored precisely by the grand rapprochement between God and the Jews in Parshas Ki Sisa, when Hashem agrees to forgive His people and share with them a relationship heretofore unheard of.
It is based on the above that we reserve the public reading of Shir Ha-Shirim (Song of Songs) for Shabbos-Pesach (Sabbath within Passover) and Koheles (Kohelet or Ecclesiastes) for Shabbos-Sukkos/Shmini Atzeres (Sabbath within the Feast of Tabernacles), for these megillos (texts or books) reflect on our relationship with Hashem and provide deep insight into His avodah (divine service or work) as depicted by each Yom Tov. Thus, it is specifically on these Shabbos/Yom Tov days of special closeness between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel (children of Israel) that we are able to have a greater understanding of our relationship with Hashem and immerse ourselves in the deeper avodah message of the Yom Tov...".
Shabbat Col Ha Moed Pesach (the Sabbath of the Intermediate Days) means the 5 days (or 4 days in the Diaspora) between the two Yom Tov's (literally good day but meaning high holy day) of the first and the last days of Passover. Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer states that whether the Sabbath occurs on one of the High Holidays or on the intermediate days of Passover it is a special day of Sanctity (kedusha). Thus it is no wonder that the Pharisees wanted to avoid ritually becoming impure and wanted to have time to prepare for this Sabbath of Devekut (Cleaving/Nearness/ Closeness to the Divine). On this Sabbath within Passover the Haftarah reading is Ezekiel 37 speaking of the resurrection of the dry bones of Israel. So while the body of Jesus was still in the tomb and about to rise from the dead, his Jewish people are reflecting on the resurrection of Israel in the haftarah reading.
That Jesus' Last Supper or Pesach Havurah (Fellowship/Communion) Meal with his friends (Haverim) comes between the two days of the strict Passover Seder and this Sabbath of Special Holiness is very appropriate and fitting. It is fascinating that the Holy Spirit guided the Prophet Isaiah in 53:5 to write "with his wound (u-ba-haburah-to) we are healed". The hebrew haburah is in the singular so it should be translated wound or stripe not wounds or stripes. That wound is the one that pierced his Sacred Heart and out flowed his Divine Mercy and Healing in the form of blood and water. The word Havurah for a fellowship group or gathering of friends (haverim) is written the same as haburah for wound in the Hebrew. Jesus' Passover Havurah was the first Sacrifice of the Mass which was mystically united to the sacrifice of his wounded Heart (haburah) on Golgotha. Thus each Mass is a Havurah at which we receive the merits and graces of his Haburah (wound) for our healing and sanctification. Each Eucharistic Holy Hour furthers this communion or fellowship (havurah) allowing his wound (haburah) to remain open flowing forth with Divine Mercy.
The synoptic gospels tell us that on the First day of the Unleavened (bread/matzot) Jesus disciples were preparing for a special Passover celebration (Pascha) .The First day of Unleavened Bread is the 15th of Nisan so it is obvious to me at least that the disciples of Jesus on the afternoon of the 15th of Nisan were about to prepare for a special Passover Havurah meal. The strict Passover Seder of the first night would be prepared by Jesus relatives not his disciples. Many quote Mark 14:12 to conclude that somehow the First Day of Unleavened was on the 14th of Nisan when the Korban Pesach lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple for the first night. However the Greek text of Mark doesn't mention lambs but just one singular Pascha (Passover Lamb). They also assumed that the "they sacrificed" refers to the priests in the Temple when the text mentions nothing about the priests. The only "theys' are Jesus and his disciples. Blessed Anne Emmerich may help us here. In her mystic visions she relates that the lamb used at the Last Supper was not one of the ritual lambs from the Temple but one that Jesus had sacrificed as they did in the first Passover of the Exodus.
Jesus is about to begin his new Exodus (see the Greek of Luke 9:31) with its New Passover which doesn't change or alter the traditional Passover but makes it now even more relevant in order to understand its fulfilment in the Eucharist. Thus the "they sacrificed" refers to Jesus and the disciples who are preparing a special Passover Havurah meal which would include a less strict Passover Seder, followed by a washing of feet ritual and then the Eucharistic Liturgy using the Messianic cup of Blessing (later known as the Cup of Elijah that is poured at the time of the third cup) and the Afikomen. One element all these more free Havurot [celebrated on the intermediary days with friends (Haverim)] have in common is they retain the eating of matzah and the drinking of the 4 cups until this day. Jesus and the disciples may have sacrificed this lamb for the Last Supper at three o'clock at the same time that the daily or perpetual lamb sacrifice was occurring in the Temple or they may have waited time after sunset. As the priests of Aaron sacrificed the lambs for the traditional Jewish Passover so Jesus and his disciples who are the priests of the New Covenant sacrifice the lamb used for this New Passover celebrated with his friends(Haverim). This second night became so holy to the early Jewish Christians that when they rejoined Judaism in the 4th century in Babylonia they brought the extra sanctity of this day with them into Judaism.
The word Pascha (Passover in Greek) seems to mean the Passover Day and Week, the Passover lamb, the Passover Seder and the other Passover Meals. This makes sense to me as my Russian Orthodox step-grandmother referred to Easter as Pascha and she also called a special delicious manna-like food that she prepared from a secret family recipe as Pascha as it was made and eaten only in the Easter (or Pascha) season. So my Russian grandmother ate Pascha (the delicious treat) on Pascha (Easter Sunday) and also during Pascha (the Easter Season). Also in some countries an Easter bread is also called Pascha. We also know that the Passover Lamb and the Afikomen (Passover Matzah bread) represented the incorrupt manna kept in a golden vessel in the Ark of the Covenant.
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's Account.
"...Jesus and His followers ate the Paschal lamb in the Coenaculum in three separate groups...In one of the side buildings near the entrance into the court of the Coenaculum, the holy women took their meal. Three lambs had been immolated and sprinkled for them in the Temple..." [This was the first Night and now we move on to the Second Night of the Last Supper Havurah with his 12 Apostles] "...But the fourth was slaughtered and sprinkled in the Coenaculum, and it was this that Jesus ate with The Twelve.... The slaughter of the lamb for Jesus and the Apostles presented a scene most touching. It took place in the anteroom of the Coenaculum, Simeon's son, the Levite, assisting at it. The Apostles and disciples were present chanting the 118th Psalm. Jesus spoke of a new period then beginning, and said that the sacrifice of Moses and the signification of the Paschal lamb were about to be fulfilled, that on this account the lamb was to be immolated as formerly in Egypt, and that now in reality were they to go forth from the house of bondage.
All the necessary vessels and instruments were now prepared. Then a beautiful little lamb was brought in, around its neck a garland which was taken off and sent to the Blessed Virgin, who was at some distance with the other women. The lamb was then bound, its back to a little board, with a cord passed around the body. It reminded me of Jesus bound to the pillar. Simeon's son held the lambs head up, and Jesus stuck it in the neck with a knife, which He then handed to Simeon's son that he might complete the slaughter. Jesus appeared timid in wounding the lamb, as if it cost Him pain. His movement was quick, His manner grave. The blood was caught in a basin, and the attendants brought a branch of hyssop, which Jesus dipped into it. Then stepping to the door of the hall, He signed the two posts and the lock with the blood, and stuck the bloody branch above the lintel. He then uttered some solemn words, saying among other things: "The destroying angel shall pass by here. Without fear or anxiety, ye shall adore in this place when I, the true Paschal Lamb, shall have been immolated. A new era, a new sacrifice are now about to begin, and they shall last till the end of the world."
They then proceeded to the Paschal hearth at the end of the hall where formerly the Ark of the Covenant reposed. There they found a fire already lighted. Jesus sprinkled the hearth with blood, and consecrated it as an altar. The rest of the blood, along with the fat, was thrown into the fire under the altar, after which, followed by the Apostles, Jesus walked around the Coenaculum singing Psalms, and consecrated it as a new Temple. During this ceremony, the doors were closed.