By Charles W. Sidoti
In my daily work coordinating a hospital spiritual care department, I provide for the spiritual needs of all faith groups among patients, their families, and staff. The hospital’s lack of an official religious affiliation has been a blessing for me. Although I am Catholic, I have learned about many spiritual traditions in order to serve each of them well. One of the most powerful involves the Jewish Festival of Passover, also referred to as the “Festival of Our Freedom.”
I have found great spiritual meaning in seeing Passover as a distinct action and gift of God in human history. The festival is a joyful time, primarily retelling and remembering the exodus of the Jewish people from both the physical and spiritual slavery of the Egyptians thousands of years ago. The story is symbolically retold in the Seder meal that is observed with the whole family.
The great Jewish phrase that captures the spiritual meaning is “We were slaves to the Pharaohs in Egypt, but the Lord led us out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 6:21). I have learned that the message of Passover, “God leads his people,” is not only about what happened then. Instead, Egypt is in our own hearts. Each one of us has our own personal Egypt. The inner slavery of loneliness, depression, anxiety, addiction, jealousy, lust, hate, anger, prejudice, violence, abuse, and countless other chains can hold us in bondage. We are enslaved by whatever negative power grips our hearts, preventing us from becoming the people God calls us to be. The same God who led his people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm wants to lead us out of the Egypt of our own closed hearts today so that we may live in the freedom of the children of God. With God’s help we can open up and allow ourselves to be led.
One key to a more peaceful life is learning when to be led and when to take life by the horns. As we reach the middle, between the tensions of when to relinquish control and when to assume it, real spiritual growth becomes possible. We discover a kind of rhythm or dance of life in which we sometimes follow and sometimes seem to lead. In both actions, we are active participants in life.
As a Christian, I have found it helpful to observe that the Last Supper actually occurred on the first day of Passover. I feel a special connectedness with my Jewish brothers and sisters as I wonder if Jesus was observing the Passover meal, sharing the Seder with his friends for the final time. Opening my heart to Passover has been powerful and insightful. It has been and remains a tremendous source of comfort and healing in my own spiritual journey.
Charles W. Sidoti, BCC, is coordinator of spiritual care at South Pointe Hospital in Warrensville Heights, OH. He is the author of two books, “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” and “Fortune Cookie Wisdom: A Contemplative Perspective.”