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What most Christian denominations call "communion" is a substantially altered version of the original New Testament Passover service, in method, custom and especially frequency. In most cases it has become a humanly devised substitute for the Passover service the Bible commands.
When originally introduced to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, the Passover was clearly a once-a-year observance (Exodus 12:1-2). When God again listed His worship festivals (including the Passover) in Leviticus 23, each except for the weekly Sabbath was solely an annual event. The Passover plainly prefigures the sacrifice of Christ for our sins (John 1:29). So likewise Jesus and His disciples kept the Passover every year at the appointed time (see Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7-13).
Notice that Jesus had observed the Passover annually from very early youth. "His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the Feast. When they had finished the days [plural] ..." (Luke 2:41-43, emphasis added throughout). The entire annual spring festival period included the biblically commanded Days of Unleavened Bread as well.
From these and other scriptures we can rightly conclude that the Passover service is an annual observance. Following Christ's example and instruction, it is to be kept with mutual footwashing by brethren (John 13:1-17) and the partaking of a small amount of unleavened bread and a sip of wine as symbols of His body and blood (Matthew 26:26-30).
Scripture gives no hint of the early Church adding to or changing the dates originally ordained for God's festivals. The phrase concerning the Passover in 1 Corinthians 11:26—"for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup"—simply points out that by observing the Passover each year on the appropriate day, members of the Church "proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." Memorials such as this are held once a year —certainly the custom of most of mankind in commemorating most events.
Some scholars have understood that Jesus did not authorize the altering of the frequency of the Passover observance. Notice the following admission: "1 Cor. 11:24; Luke 22:19: 'Do this in remembrance of me' ... They [these words of Christ] express the wish of Jesus that the annual Passover should be observed in His memory until the rendezvous in the Kingdom.
"The fact that the Church came to remember the Lord in the weekly breaking of bread and not at the annual Passover should not be brought against the strong probability that what Jesus expected was the latter [i.e., annual observance]" (Studies in Biblical Theology, No. 6: The Lord's Supper in the New Testament, A.J.B. Higgins, 1956, p. 55).
In summary, the Bible specifies the yearly observance of the Passover, and history records its annual celebration as the practice of the early Church.
Passover, as a memorial of Jesus' death, is to be observed annually on the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar—just as all of God's other festivals (except the weekly Sabbath) are to be kept once a year. No biblical precedent, practice or instructions sanction doing otherwise.
Regrettably, one of the "hidden" effects for insisting on multiple observances of communion in place of the Passover is that it encourages unsuspecting people to ignore the other true biblical festivals and view them as unnecessary. But observing them is essential if we wish to obey God and truly understand the meaning of His plan for humanity!
©2004 United Church of God, an International Association