Bishop Antoine Tarabay: The first Easter in Jerusalem.

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The Resurrection, a Maronite icon by Fr Abdo Badwi. PHOTO: Courtesy of Maronite Eparchy of Australia

The Feast of Easter is the one celebration where the Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church announces, in the voice of her sons and daughters, that Christ rose from the dead, that He truly rose.

We believe, and we testify with the apostles and disciples to the fact of His resurrection. As the apostle Paul says: “If Christ was not raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

And so, once again, we meditate upon what happened in Jerusalem at the time of the Last Supper and the following days, and how the earthly life of Our Lord Jesus Christ ended.

When we ponder this, we see that the first Easter was celebrated quite differently from how we celebrate today.

At that Passover in Jerusalem, the disciples gathered for their Last Supper with the Lord. They were filled with questions and were naturally fearful. Then came the apparent catastrophe of Great Friday. We see the great sadness in the heart of the Virgin Mary at seeing Jesus hanging on the Cross. We also see the disciples, confused and fearful for their lives, uncertain of their fate, hesitant, and unsure of what to do next.

His triumphant Resurrection

But on the third day, He rose from the dead – and something unthinkable to human reasoning did in fact happen. It was women who had gone to the tomb, to anoint Jesus’ body, when they found the stone had been rolled away from the door and Jesus no longer inside. Upon their return, they told the apostles: “He has risen, and is not here” (Mark 16:6).

This news was the single biggest turning point in the history of humanity: the Resurrection of the Lord transformed sadness into joy, fear into courage, despair into hope and death into life.

Easter, as we celebrate it today, must take us back to some of what the apostles experienced. The tragedy of the war, dictatorships, poverty, injustice, hunger, diseases and epidemics continues to trouble the lives of many, leaving all of us fearful, uncertain and hesitant.

A turbulent world

The worsening economic and social crises in our homeland Lebanon, the war in Ukraine, and issues closer to home such as religious freedom and assisted dying legislation, raise more than one question mark, and give us cause for great concern and anxiety.

What will the future look like for us and for our children?

However, Easter opens for us new horizons to contemplate today’s reality. While the Feast of the Resurrection may not offer quick solutions to complex issues or wars breaking out, it is a miraculous event from which springs good hope, and a love that forgives sin, saves souls and renews life.

Let us be clear that this hope is not some abstract idea, a metaphysical philosophy, or a new social vision. Rather, it is the person of Jesus Christ Himself, who was incarnated and lived among us, who bore our sins and our transgressions, who was crucified and died. But He defeated death, rising on the third day in great power and glory, restoring life and opening the path to heaven and eternal life.

The Resurrection is the feast of hope which never disappoints, despite our suffering, despite wars, and despite loss of loved ones and possessions. It plants hope in the hearts of the sick, the forgotten and the marginalised.

The Year of Hope

This is why in the Maronite Eparchy, we announced 2022 as the Year of Hope. We see signs of this hope every day, in the humanitarian and social assistance generously extended to those who lost their homes and jobs due to the recent floods.

We have also seen it in countries that have opened their borders to receive refugees fleeing the dangers of death, war and destruction. Signs of hope were also evident in the generosity of many communities in Australia and worldwide, towards those struggling in Lebanon, especially during the recent crises.

These and similar humanitarian initiatives build a bridge of compassion, delivering much needed hope, dignity, and a reason to stay and to persevere.

The Church’s journey, from the first Easter until today, is a journey of witness and hope amid tragedies, challenges, and persecution. We are in dire need of the true peace which emanates from the heart of our Lord Jesus, that peace fills us with the grace of hope and the strength of witness.

How beautiful it is to renew our faith on this Feast, asking the Lord to give us a faithful heart that listens to His words: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be alarmed” (John 14:27).

I wish all of you, your families and your loved ones Happy Easter.

“Christ is Risen … He is truly Risen And we are witnesses to that.”

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