The Passover timeline

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Jesus and his apostles at the Last Supper are depicted in a painting at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church in Southampton, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Question: Jesus asked the apostles to go into town to prepare the Passover meal. They did as he asked. This meal took place on Thursday. Why not on the customary day of Friday evening?

Deacon Paul VanHoudt, Erie, Colorado

Answer: You are likely confusing the Passover feast with the Sabbath observances. The Sabbath was always on Saturday and began at sundown on the Friday before. However Passover, like our Easter, varied in its exact calendar date and might occur on any day of the week. That year, according to Matthew, Mark and Luke, it fell on a Friday, beginning on Thursday at sundown. That would also explain the hasty burial of Jesus that had to be completed before sundown on Friday. Though Passover that year was on Friday, the Sabbath began Friday at sundown when work had to cease. John’s Gospel presents a slightly different sequence, but that needs its own column to explain.

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at Send questions to