Easter is Relationship
Easter message and reflection from Dr. Bernard Sabella
The act of crucifixion and resurrection is that of a relationship most personal and general, at the same time. While on a personal level, each one of us sees in the crucifixion and resurrection a narrative that speaks to one’s situation, affiliations, afflictions and expectations; on a more general level Easter summarizes relationships and their history with the Divine, faith within the Church and the City and ways in which we reciprocate with others. Essential in both the personal and general relationship is the sense of hope that Easter engenders. The transition from life to death to life again of Jesus Christ is not only symbolic as it takes on practical consequences one of which is how the act of Resurrection brings people together in faith, community and the hope for the life beyond.
Easter is celebrated in early spring when Jerusalem and its environs are alive with a rich assortment of wild flora on the hills and valleys that surround the city. After a winter that has seen more than average rainfall, a blessing in a land afflicted by draught for a number of years, celebrating Easter is even more of an act of faith that overcomes the constraints of mundane matters. The association of spring with Easter is an old one that is discovered again and again by younger generations as they marvel on the beauty of the wild colors of the hills.
In the city of Jerusalem Easter celebrations take on communal expression. Palm Sunday procession which winds down from Bethpage on the Mount of Olives to Ste. Anne Church, just inside St. Stephen’s Gate, is religious in its nature but seeing Palestinian Christians in the procession from Jenin, Zababdeh, Nablus, Ramallah, Aboud, Ein Arik, Bir Zeit, Jifnah, Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala as they chant Arabic hymns of praise and carry placards with the name of their locality combined with the name of Palestine is a reflection also of the communal nature of the procession. This affirmation of Palestinian Christian presence highlights the fact that in spite of the dwindling numbers of Palestinian Christians and of the dire political situation, we Palestinian Christians remain part of our society and of the Palestinian landscape and adds variety, steadfastness and hope to it.
Good Friday is another celebration in which the personal reflection and prayer is joined to the communal outpouring of emotions on this of the holiest of days. As the Palestinian Christian faithful carry the heavy wooden cross on the fourteen stations of the Via Dolorosa on the road to Golgotha, they are commemorating not only the road taken by Jesus himself to Golgotha but also generations of local Christians who have carried the same cross successively years after years. Some of these Christians have left and they made Sydney, Chicago, La Calera, Santiago de Chile, San Pedro Sula, Montreal and other distant cities and towns their new homes.
And yet Easter Sunday restores both faith and hope. Whoever is in Jerusalem celebrates and the joy that shines forth in the egg hunt, in the special sweet delicacies of Ka’ek wa Ma’mul prepared and baked in family, in the new dresses and shoes worn by children and in the Easter Dinner that gathers the whole family is a sustaining joy. May this joy sustain also relationships between our Diaspora communities and those of us who remain steadfast in this land of the forefathers.
Blessed Easter and as the Palestinian Christians greet each other: Christ has Risen! Indeed He has! Al Masih Qam! Haqqan Qam!
*Dr. Bernard Sabella is the Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches’ Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees, a partner of Global Ministries.