Liberation of the Israelites from Egypt – the Passover

The Passover, one of the most important festivals in Judaism, is the commemoration of the liberation of Israel from Egypt after 430 years of slavery.  However the Passover (‘Pascha’ in Greek) is also the root of the Christian celebration of Easter. What is it that links our celebration of Christ’s Resurrection with this Jewish festival?

The initiation of the Passover is described in the 12th chapter of Exodus, where Pharaoh refuses to grant freedom to Israel, even after Moses announces to him that the tenth and most terrible plague is about to afflict every home in Egypt. And so Moses prepares the people of Israel with the instructions given to him by God. Each family must sacrifice a young lamb, a perfect lamb without blemish, and sprinkle its blood over the door of their home. This will protect their firstborn sons from the plague of death that will pass through Egypt that night. At midnight, the Egyptians force the Israelites to leave Egypt after suffering the terrible death of all their firstborn. The Israelites flee from Egypt with haste, without even having time to leaven their bread, but they are full of gratitude to God for delivering them from death and slavery.

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The Jews continued to celebrate the Passover every year as a reminder of their liberation. We as Christians also celebrate a new Passover, the fulfilment of the Passover in Christ.

Christ is the perfect and blameless lamb who is sacrificed to deliver us from death. St John Chrysostom explains that while the Old Testament Passover freed us from a temporary enemy in Pharaoh, and gave us a temporary homeland in the Promised Land, Christ’s sacrifice saves us from the eternal enemy, the Devil, and opens to us the eternal homeland of His heavenly Kingdom.

The blood of the lamb also clearly prefigures the Holy Eucharist, which saves us from the death of sin and the slavery of our passions. Thus each of us must undergo a personal Passover, in which we flee from the bondage of the noetic Egypt, that is, sin, and turn to our Saviour Jesus Christ who sacrificed Himself for us in order to transport us from death to eternal life.


Source: February- March 2014 Lychnos Edition