Dr. Bernard Sabella is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a works with the Near East Council of Churches, a frequent partner of CNEWA. He sent the message below to a number of friends and associates, and we reproduce it with his permission. He writes from Jerusalem.
The act of crucifixion and resurrection is that of a relationship most personal and general, at the same time. 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. Jesus Christ’s transition from life to death to life again is not only symbolic, as it takes on practical consequences — one of which is how the 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 transcends the mundane. The association of spring with Easter is an old one that is discovered again and again by younger generations as they marvel at the beauty of the wild colors of the hills.
In the city of Jerusalem, Easter celebrations take on communal expression. The Palm Sunday procession, which winds down from Bethpage on the Mount of Olives to St. 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 also a reflection 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. This affirmation adds variety, steadfastness and hope.
Good Friday is another celebration in which personal reflection and prayer is joined to the communal outpouring of emotions on this holiest of days. As the Palestinian Christian faithful carry the heavy wooden cross on the 14 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 year after year. 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. 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!