“He is not here, He has risen!”
This is the message the disciples received when they came looking for Jesus in the tomb. This is the message of the resurrection, of Easter. What was lifeless, buried, has been brought to life, giving new hope. Easter is the time to reflect, whether you are of faith or not, on what we are searching for in the wrong place, are we looking for fulfilment, gratification, success, in a place where it doesn’t exist?
Millions around the world join in celebrating this feast which marks the pivotal point of the Christian calendar. This is what our faith is based on, not on death, but on life; not on fear, but on freedom; not on despair, but on hope. The resurrection completes the narrative and we are made whole again.
What was once dead, buried, has been brought to life.
This is the message that gives us hope. As a Coptic Christian, I was deeply saddened to hear of yet another attack on our Coptic church on Palm Sunday.
This is the glory, this is what love looks like, this is the message of forgiveness, the one Jesus came to preach, as he said greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
The most common Coptic word you will hear during a liturgy or prayer service is Kireyeleson – Lord have mercy. It was never sung as loud and intently as it was on Sunday night during the Pascha. Lord have mercy. We have been singing it for centuries, pleading with God to protect us and have mercy upon us. We know He is full of grace, the grace that extends to us which has saved us, but we plead for his mercy at every liturgy, and every prayer. On Palm Sunday we cry out “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest,” as Jesus enters Jerusalem. We sing it without reflecting on the meaning, Hosanna -“Save, Please!” an urgent and desperate cry for a saviour. We did not know how real our cry was when we sang this together on Sunday morning.
If you listen to the testimonies of survivors who have lost loved ones, our minds cannot comprehend the multitude of peace and forgiveness that extends from their hearts. This is the glory, this is what love looks like, this is the message of forgiveness, the one Jesus came to preach, as he said greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
What is the meaning of such a sacrifice? Blood is shed, but for what? Our minds are turned back to the story of the crucifixion and resurrection. Innocent blood was shed, for the sake of humanity, but on the third day, mourning turns to joy, despair to hope, death to life.
We lift up our prayers for the families who have lost husbands, wives, sons and daughters; for strength of the Church; and for guidance for the leaders of the nations.
This is not an attack on the Coptics only, this is an attack on anyone who doesn’t adhere or uphold a specific set of beliefs, whether you are a Christian or not, this is an attack on democracy, liberties, freedom of religion, all the pillars that our western civilisation rests on.
Our hope is fixed steadfastly in our Saviour, the One who knows the costly price of His life. Death is no longer feared, it has been conquered by a Saviour’s sacrifice.
Explosives detonating in churches has become uncomfortably familiar with any Copt, but each one still hurts as if it is the first. Our church is built on the blood of Martyrs, which has strengthened our faith. The blood of Copts has been shed in Egypt throughout history at the hands of the Romans, and more recently, the Arabs, forcing Copts to either renounce their faith, pay a heavy tax, or be killed. What is the meaning of such a sacrifice? Blood is shed, but for what? Our minds are turned back to the story of the crucifixion and resurrection. Innocent blood was shed, for the sake of humanity, but on the third day, mourning turns to joy, despair to hope, death to life.
Whilst our hearts and prayers are firmly with the Coptic community this Easter, our hope is fixed steadfastly in our Saviour, the One who knows the costly price of His life. Death is no longer feared, it has been conquered by a Saviour’s sacrifice. This is the truth that anchors us all in times of celebration and ever more in times of despair.
The sun rose the following day on Monday with tears and sorrow, a sobering morning emerges and Coptic families around the world are calling their relatives in Egypt with live news streaming in the background. Pascha services continue through the week as we look to Sunday, when the Son will rise, wiping away all tears, bringing hope, and new life.
What was once dead, buried, has been brought to life.
Dahlia Messiha is WA Director of the Australian Christian Lobby and a Coptic Christian.
The Bible Society team in Egypt have sent out prayer requests in light of the Palm Sunday bombings:
Palm Sunday is one of the busiest days at Church in Egypt. The streets are full of vendors providing intricately woven palm branches, and the day is one of festive anticipation. This is how the day started, celebrating our humble King of Kings who did not come riding in to conquer Jerusalem on a war horse, but rather came on a donkey, as the Prince of Peace. And as olive branches were distributed, amidst the waving of palm branches and chants of “Hosanna,” the Middle East’s largest Christian community was once again given the honour of presenting a costly gift to their Saviour.
Christians who had not planned to attend the many services throughout the Passion Week (opting to follow on Satellite TV) have stated that they will now go. The attitudes and the statements are, “No one will keep us from praying together.” On Sunday afternoon, when the church was closed by the police for investigation, the people prayed in the street, and churches throughout the country were overflowing. In several FaceBook posts, Muslims have said that they will come to church this week to show their solidarity.
This is not a 2000 year old legend, but a living testimony to the power of the Christian faith. Pray for the Church of the Martyrs, as they seek to faithfully apply the teachings and example of Jesus, to forgive their killers, and practically express the hope of the Resurrection. Pray for patience in the midst of sorrow and grief. This is not to say there is no frustration or anger. With scores injured, there is ongoing suffering, need and fear. Pray for all of our church leaders and government leaders.
As you celebrate this weekend, may you be inspired by the witness of many Egyptian Christians whose faith epitomises the true meaning of Easter.