JERUSALEM, APRIL 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Easter Message sent by the patriarchs and heads of local churches in Jerusalem.
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Sisters and brothers here and in all the world, we greet you in the name of our Risen Lord and ask God to fill you with the joy and the strength of the resurrection.
Having opposed early Christians and, indeed, sought to bring many of them to trial for their faith, St. Paul was suddenly challenged by our Blessed Lord as he journeyed to Damascus. Within a short time he became a powerful messenger for Jesus. Reading his various epistles we see he has much to say on many aspects of the Christian faith.
The statement he sets before the Philippians is regarded by many people as the most powerful: “All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings.”
In this short sentence he links the cross and the Resurrection. The sufferings he had to face for his faith lead him to become conscious of the power of the Resurrection given to those who truly believe, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Yet again, recent months have shown us much of the hardships and sufferings people have to endure, not least in this land. Much of this burden has arisen from man’s inhumanity to men together with the deprivation of basic human dignity and rights, all caused by the siege imposed upon us.
Our Blessed Lord challenges all of us; if we are to be his disciples we must take up our cross and follow him. In the midst of sufferings, we reach for the power of the Resurrection and the power of the Spirit that enables us to take away the oppressions that are imposed upon us.
So, as we celebrate the joy of Easter we must examine carefully where we stand in relation to God. Many of us need to abandon the selfish instinct within us. If we truly seek the power of the Resurrection in our lives, then we must disregard any idea we might have of self-sufficiency or worldly hopes that hide from our eyes the things of heaven and of the Spirit.
If we believe in the Resurrection, we must affirm that our security is with God and in the power of the Resurrection. Again St. Paul reminds us when writing to the Corinthians: “But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Despite our weakness and despite the unjust circumstances imposed upon us, the power of God can free us if we come to understand the logic of the Spirit in us and if we behave accordingly.
On the first Good Friday, the disciples of Jesus doubtlessly felt shattered. However, gradually their faith was restored as they became conscious of their Risen Lord. Their own personal darkness of fear and uncertainty was suddenly illuminated by the light of Jesus’ resurrection.
So, as we celebrate the Resurrection we must be more diligent in searching for the light and in using it to build a better tomorrow for all of us, Palestinians or Israelis, Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druzes. We search for the light that comes from God, illuminates all creation, guides every true believer in his search to find God’s freedom for all, together with his peace and justice.
As we greet our sisters and brothers across the world, we wish them the joy of Easter and the power of the Risen Lord in their daily lives. While conscious of the care and concern shown by many of you, we again ask for your particular prayers for this land, that God will guide all its governors and show them the path of justice and equality among all.
Pray for the newly formed Unity Government of the Palestinians together with the Israeli Government and the Arab Initiative, to work to remove fear and all oppression, the walls, the barriers and the prisons, so that hearts become full of trust and all can enjoy the same freedom and the same dignity.
Then we would ask that you make a particular effort to encourage your particular nation to stop the embargo imposed upon us and to restore its aid to the Palestinians. Many vital areas of community are in a desperate plight as a result of the withholding of this aid, not least [among them, areas of] justice, economy, medicine and education, etc. …
As all Christians across the world celebrate Easter together we wish everyone, at home and abroad, that joy which our Blessed Lord’s resurrection brings. We ask God to bestow upon all the joy and the power of the resurrection so that the words of Jesus become real as he said: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!
May you experience a happy and holy Easter!
Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem
Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem
Patriarch Michel Sabbah, R.C. Latin
Patriarch Torkom I Manooghian, Armenian Orthodox
Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, Custos of the Holy Land
Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox
Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian-Orthodox
Archbishop Abouna Mattias, Ethiopian Orthodox
Archbishop Paul Sayyah, Maronite
Bishop Suheil Dawani, Anglican
Bishop Munib Younan, Lutheran
Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian-Catholic
Archbishop Georges Michel Bakar, Greek Catholic
Father Rafael Minassian, Armenian Catholic