But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).
The Easter celebration takes me to the Holy Land where Jesus was born, raised, crucified and resurrected from the dead. The holiest days of Easter celebration in the Holy Land are Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Fire Saturday and Easter Sunday. On Palm Sunday, traditionally Christians of all denominations and ethnic backgrounds gather together on the Mount of Olives to celebrate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. The main celebration of the Holy Week takes place in Jerusalem.
Palestinian Christians are denied their right to worship in Jerusalem. They are faced with the Israeli separation barrier and checkpoints that delay and prohibit them from entering Jerusalem. The checkpoints that are located between Palestinian cities and villages make it difficult to travel from one place to the other.
Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza are denied their right to have free access to worship in Jerusalem. They need to apply for permits to have access in their own country. Especially during Holy Week, you will see more foreigners worshiping in Jerusalem than Palestinian Christians.
Despite all of the restrictions imposed on Palestinians, each congregation celebrates the Holy Week in their own city and village.
On Palm Sunday all congregation members in each city and village have a procession while singing and carrying palms, olive branches and flowers. After the worship, a Palm Sunday parade with Scout groups goes from one church to the other gathering Scouts and marchers as they progress through the procession. During Holy Week, there are evening services in all churches Monday through Friday.
On Good Friday Christian pilgrims from all over the world come to follow Christ’s walk through the Via Dolorosa in the holy city of Jerusalem.
Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb with tears and sadness and lost hope until she met the risen Lord! Her hope was restored. She then went and shared the good news! This year Palestinians celebrated Easter rejoicing the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, the city of hope, in the Holy Land, where pilgrims from all over the world visit.
Despite the hopeless situation, Palestinians believe they are messengers of hope. An ecumenical group of Palestinian Christians issued a statement called “A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering” (also known as the Kairos Palestine document, available at www.Kairospalestine.ps).
Let us continue to pray and act for Christians all over the world and especially, for our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land so that peace, justice and freedom will reign in the land of peace!
For more Easter messages from different religious leaders in the Holy Land, please visit: