22 April 2024

The Greeks have a word for it:
36, Exodus, ἔξοδος

‘Eξοδος, Exodos, Exit 1’ … a sign at Rethymnon bus station (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

Passover begins this evening (22 April 2024), and continues until Tuesday next week (30 April 2024). This eight-day holiday celebrates the Exodus, the flight from Egypt, the liberation of Jewish people, delivered from slavery in Egypt to freedom and liberty.

I am in Chania Airport this evening, wating for my own flight out of Crete back to England, but conscious of the many celebrations of Passover in Crete tonight, especially with the people I know and love at Etz Hayyim synagogue in Chania.

Indeed, many resorts and hotels in Crete have organised special programmes for Passover, beginning this evening, with organised Seder meals and special entertainment. On the flight from Luton to Chania last Wednesday, a Jewish family from Finchley told me of their plans to spend Passover in Crete this year.

‘Eξοδος, Exodos, Exit 5’ … a sign at Chania airport this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The holiday of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th until the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Passover or Pesach is marked by avoiding leaven, but the highlight is the Seder meal this evening, retelling the story of the Exodus, with four cups of wine and eating matzah and bitter herbs.

In Hebrew, Passover is known as Pesach, which means ‘to pass over,’ because God passed over the Jewish homes as the Egyptian firstborn were killed on the eve of the very first Passover.

The Hebrew slaves were forced into back-breaking salve-labour and unbearable horrors when God saw the people’s distress and sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message: ‘Let my people go.’ When the despotic Pharaoh refused and did not listen, ten devastating plagues afflicted the people of Egypt, destroying everything from livestock to crops.

In the last of the ten plagues, all the firstborn Egyptians were killed. Pharaoh’s resistance was broken, and he virtually chased his former slaves out of the land. The former slaves left in such a hurry that the bread they baked for the exodus did not have time to rise. That night, 600,000 adult males, plus many more women and children, left Egypt and began the trek to Mount Sinai.

The highlight of Passover is the Seder, observed on each of the first two nights of the holiday. The Seder is a family-oriented tradition and ritual-packed feast. The Haggadah is a domestic liturgy that describes in detail the story of the Exodus. It fulfils the Biblical obligation to recount to children the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover, and begins with a child asking the traditional ‘Four Questions’: ‘What makes this night different from all other nights?’

On this night remembering the Exodus and the flight from Egypt, I am in Chania Airport, waiting to catch a flight back to Luton, leaving Greece after a five-day extended weekend in Crete. On the flight to Crete, I was sitting beside a Jewish family from Finchley who are spending the Pesach holiday in Crete.

Indeed, advertising in the Jewish Chronicle and on social media shows how many Jewish families are spending this holiday in Crete: kosher food is being provided, Seder meals have been organised, the programmes include traditional music and traditional entertainment and guided tours, and rabbis from a variety of traditions are on hand in many hotels and resorts.

A Torah scroll opened at the Exodus story (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Exodus narrative is spread over four of the first five books of the Bible or Pentateuch – Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Hebrew name is יציאת מצרים (Yəṣīʾat Mīṣrayīm, ‘Departure from Egypt’). It is the founding story in the Israelite, Hebrew or Jewish story, and for many theologians the Exodus is the paradigmatic Biblical narrative of liberation and salvation.

The etymology of the word Exodus shows it comes from the Latin Exodus, but this in turn comes from the Ancient Greek ἔξοδος (éxodos), which comes from the Greek words ἐξ (ex, ‘out of’) and ὁδός (hodós, ‘way’ or ‘road’).

So, the word Exodus is not Hebrew but Greek in origin, and the Greek word Exodos literally means ‘the road out.’ Other related words in English derived from the Greek ὁδός (hodós) include episode, method, period and odometer or odograph. Several scientific words also can be traced back to hodos, such as anode and cathode, the positive and negative electrodes of a diode, and hodoscope, an instrument that traces the paths of ionising particles.

But the word Exodus only comes into the English language in the 17th century with the translations of the Bible. In Hebrew, the title of the book is שְׁמוֹת (shemōt, ‘Names’), from the beginning words of the text: ‘These are the names of the sons of Israel’ (Hebrew: וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמֹות בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל).

Chag Pesach Sameach, חג פסח שמח

Previous word: 35, autopsy and biopsy

Next word: 37, Bishop, ἐπίσκοπος

A Seder plate in the Jewish Museum of Art and History (mahJ) in Paris (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Easter 2024:
23, 22 April 2024

‘The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep’ (John 10: 2) … ‘Paternoster’ or ‘Shepherd and Sheep’ … a bronze sculpture by Dame Elisabeth Frink in Paternoster Square by Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Easter is a 50-day season that continues until the Day of Pentecost. The week began yesterday with the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Easter IV), although this is still the Season of Great Lent, and yesterday was the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

Throughout this Season of Easter, my morning reflections each day include the daily Gospel reading, the prayer in the USPG prayer diary, and the prayers in the Collects and Post-Communion Prayer of the day.

I have been staying in Rethymnon for an extended weekend since last Wednesday. But this is the last day of my visit, and I leave Rethymnon for Chania later this afternoon to catch a flight this evening to Luton.

Before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, today’s Gospel reading;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary;

3, the Collects and Post-Communion prayer of the day.

Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep’ (John 10: 7) … Lichfield’s last remaining pinfold, where Beacon Street turns into Stafford Road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 10: 1-10 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 10 ‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’

Sheep and goats grazing together in a field in Platanias near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Monday 22 April 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Living by faith is hard, and it is never the obvious path.’ This theme was introduced yesterday with an extract taken from a sermon by the Revd Chris Parkman, Chaplain at Saint John’s Menton, and volunteer for A Rocha France at Les Courmettes.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (22 April 2024, International Earth Day) invites us to pray:

Today we pray for the Earth. May we work together to protect and sustain God’s creation rather than damage and destroy it.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Merciful Father,
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:
keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Risen Christ,
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.

Collect on the Eve of Saint George:

God of hosts,
who so kindled the flame of love
in the heart of your servant George
that he bore witness to the risen Lord
by his life and by his death:
give us the same faith and power of love
that we who rejoice in his triumphs
may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued Tomorrow

Sheep and goats in a sculpture in a garden in Knightstown on Valentia Island, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org