Obama Observes Holy Week at the White House

The president and Mrs. Obama paused Monday night to mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House.

This is the third time the Obamas have hosted the dinner since coming into office, a tradition they started when Mr. Obama was a presidential candidate on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania. Then Senator Obama is said to have enjoyed the ritual feast with staff and friends so much he played off the traditional refrain at the end of the Seder, yelling out "Next Year in the White House."

Celebrating the eight-day Jewish holiday, which commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, is not the only religious tradition the president has implemented at 1600 Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, for the second year, Mr. Obama hosted an Easter prayer breakfast in the East Room, which the president today deemed to be an annual event.

"I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -- because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there's something about the resurrection -- something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective," the president said.

Joined by administration officials and clergy from around the country, representing several different denominations, President Obama noted that Holy Week is the time to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyone's lives, not only his own, to reflect on the last days of Jesus' life, his death and resurrection.

"In the middle of critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective," the president said. "Children help do that. A strong spouse helps do that. But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal."

The first family doesn't attend traditional church services regularly, though they've attended services seven times since coming to the White House. Polls show that many Americans still wrongly believe that Obama is actually Muslim, so previous prayer breakfasts were used to underline the president's Christian faith. Obama's remarks today, as he quoted from the book of Isaiah, left little doubt as to Mr. Obama's religious affiliation and its impact on his life.

"This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this 'Amazing Grace' calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray," the president said. "It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I've not shown grace to others, those times that I've fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son -- his Son and our Savior."

North Carolina Representative Mike McIntyre attended today's event along with his wife. The congressman's home state was devastated by tornados this past weekend and the president offered his prayers for the families affected.