Monday, April 20, 2009

Pascha in Palestine.

As I noted a couple of days ago, Orthodox Christians from around the world gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Saturday to take part in the ceremony of the Holy Fire anticipating the Feast of the Resurrection. Though press reports indicate that many Greek, Russian and Ukrainian pilgrims took part in the ceremony this year, travel restrictions prevented all but a relative handful of Palestinian Christians from traveling the short distance from their home cities and villages to Jerusalem. Ironically, members of a community that maintained a continuous presence in the Holy Land for nearly two millennia are unable to join their fellow Christians from around the world in gathering at the empty tomb to proclaim their faith in the Risen Christ.

Yesterday, I read a reflection on the miracle of the Holy Fire by Dr. Maria Kouremenou Khoury, a Greek Orthodox laywoman and religious educator who is married to a Palestinian Christian and lives in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Though most Christians living in Ramallah and surrounding towns are unable to attend the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem, the Holy Fire is brought to them after the ceremony by others who are able to travel through Israeli checkpoints. The arrival of the Holy Fire in Ramallah is celebrated with great joy, showing the resilient faith of an ancient Christian community even in times of considerable hardship and uncertainty. Here is some of what Dr. Khoury has to say about Saturday's celebration:
It was an amazing and extraordinary day in Ramallah and then in Taybeh receiving the Holy Fire following the miracle at Christ’s Holy Life-Giving Tomb in Jerusalem on this Great and Holy Saturday afternoon. I decided not to argue with the soldiers and the policemen in Jerusalem like last year where my husband David and I could not get anywhere near the Holy Sepulchre.

Also, I decided to take the advice of the Greek monk during my first time to witness the Miracle of the Holy Fire (2002) when he kicked me out of the front row near the Life-Giving-Tomb and said in Greek: “My child, it is not only with the eyes that we see.” I think he desperately needed the space for the Greek Consul and Greek dignitaries that attend this special miracle but his wise words never left my thoughts.

I had a wonderful day waiting for the Holy Fire to go through the checkpoints and arrive in Ramallah for all those who do not have permits to enter Jerusalem. Since on top of the security permits, we also need additional passes to go by further checkpoints to get to the Holy Sepulchre. To access holy places and pray on holy days should be a basic human right not needing any permits or passes but we live a bizarre life under Israeli occupation. Don’t ever take your religious freedom for granted; we suffer to achieve it.
To read the rest of the reflection, click here. I also encourage you to read another reflection in which Dr. Khoury discusses her experiences attending the ceremony of the Holy Fire in 2002. More importantly, I hope that you'll join me in continuing to pray for the Christians of the Holy Land. May the joy that they celebrate on the Feast of the Resurrection remain with them and give them the strength to endure in these times of trial. AMDG.


Post a Comment

<< Home