Adapted from the Composer's Introduction to this Dramatic Musical Experience:
Over time, the people of Jewish faith developed an elaborate ritual of celebration of the Passover, which for centuries has been known as a Seder. Prayers of blessings are learned and recited. Food is prepared to very particular specifications. And so during Passover each family remembers the story of Exodus. The feast of Passover pre-dates all other feasts, and even the Ten Commandments. Passover is the feast Jesus chose to celebrate during His last hours.
Rich with beauty and Symbolism the Passover Supper has lost its significance to many Christians today. The blood of a spotless lamb saved the Israelites from the last of the ten plagues, the plague of death of the firstborn. As John refers to Jesus as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world", he is drawing on the Jewish understanding of sacrifice and atonement, giving meaning to Christ's suffering and death to his early followers.