The First Passover
Updated: Jul 8, 2020
A woman trims the wick on the lamp; this night she will keep it burning, though there is little oil to spare. Her husband catches her eye as she straightens up again. “I wonder what is going on out there? How I wish I could look outside. It would be better than waiting …just waiting and not doing anything…”
“Hush,” she replies. “The instructions were to stay inside. It isn’t safe out there. In here, you are under the Lord’s protection.”
In the next house—which, by the way, is cramped—the family, too, is awake, though the night wears on. A child climbs on his mother’s lap, looks solemnly in her eyes and asks, “Mama, are we going to be okay?”
“The Lord has promised to protect us,” she replies. “That is why your father painted the doorposts.” She sighed, looking at her husband who nods in agreement. “I hope it’s true,” she thinks as she wraps her arms around her child.
The boy’s thoughts, however, have turned to the strange events of the evening. The bleating of the lambs, the children’s joy that tonight they would feast—on meat!—their skipping and singing among the houses. Then the pungently rich smell of lamb’s blood, which he watched his father smear on the lintel and doorposts: three marks that seemed to catch fire in the crimson rays of the setting sun.
After they had shut the door, they ate, indeed feasted, though somehow it all felt so quiet and solemn.
In yet one more house, the family prays, though they do not have precise words or set formulas. They stand, father with staff in hand, all—from the grandfather to the smallest toddler—clad and in sandals. The bread bowl lies just to the side. They stand and pray.
It struck me the other day that on the first Passover the Israelites had nothing yet to remember. Except, of course, the nine plagues. But for all they had seen, they were still in slavery, still in Egypt. What was it like to wait through that night? Were they afraid or restless? Did they believe that the Lord, this time, would set them free? Did they know how to pray? They didn’t yet have the pillar of cloud and fire, the Law, the manna. They didn’t have the sacrifices or the Psalms. Or the land, or the prophets. On this night, the Lord asked of them obedience and trust.
Then I remembered. I do have Jesus to lead, His teachings, His grace. I am one of few who have His Presence in the Eucharist in my home. I have prayer. And I have the indelible mark on my soul, my soul marked by the Blood of the Lamb, redeemed by Jesus. I have this safe “home” where the Trinity indwells. Here, with the Lord and under His protection, I can wait.
But how should I wait? Obediently, that is, listening for the Lord. In confident trust, because He has shown me over and over again that He is faithful. With staff in hand, to battle temptations, with the oil of love in my heart, and with sandals on my feet, ready to go at any time. Where and when? Wherever the Lord leads, whenever He wishes. Should I worry that I do not know the way? No, for as surely as the Israelites stepped out of their homes to find a pillar of cloud to lead them, I have a guide Who shall always be a light to my path. “I am the way,” Jesus says. And I am content to follow.
Sr. Cecilia, CFR