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From Tears of Sorrow to the Joy of Resurrection: An Easter Message from Archbishop Hosam Naoum

Posted on: April 2, 2024 11:56 AM
The Most Revd Hosam Naoum

A Pastoral Letter - Easter 2024

From Tears of Sorrow to the Joy of Resurrection

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. (Romans 8:11, NRSV)

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Grace and peace to you all from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has risen victoriously from the dead!

For Christians, Easter is the glorious celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the grave, as well as his triumph over death, evil, and sin. Through his death, Jesus conquered death and shattered its power. By His Resurrection, he opened for us the gate of grace, forgiveness, and new life. It's the gate that leads from the bondage of sin and evil to the freedom of salvation-one that bids us pass from darkness into light, from doubt to faith, and from tears of sorrow to tears of joy.

Yet as this festival day arrives, all is not well. The war rages on. Hatred is on the rise. The killing of innocents continues, spreading violence in all its many forms. We weep, mourn, and lament over this situation, just as our Lord Jesus wept over the Holy City because its people did not know the things that would bring peace (Luke 19:41-42). Christ desired peace for Jerusalem, but human beings rejected it. To this day, the world continues to pursue a different kind of "peace." Even so, we pray without ceasing for that heavenly peace that only God can bestow.

Here, I am reminded of the scene of the Virgin Mary cradling her son Jesus after he was taken down from the cross, as depicted in the fifteenth century by the great artist Michelangelo in his work La Pietà. It's a powerful and moving portrayal of a mother's grief, as if a sword were piercing her soul (Luke 2:35). In our time, this scene repeats itself in various places around the world, especially in Gaza and throughout the Holy Land, where mothers weep for their children and husbands when they are killed, and where they themselves become victims because of the ongoing war and its deadly consequences.

On the Via Dolorosa, women were also weeping and lamenting over Jesus. But Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children" (Luke 23:28, NRSV). Centuries later, we are still weeping over the situation surrounding us. But let us remember that after all the sorrows of the crucifixion-after all the suffering and death-there was the Resurrection. So let our tears be an expression of resilience in the face of the great difficulties and challenges before us. Let them be a groaning towards transformation: towards a state of resurrection, one that brings peace in our hearts, our land, and in the larger world.

Mary Magdalene was the first to arrive at the tomb to visit her teacher. She stood outside the tomb crying. First, two angels asked her, "Why are you weeping?" Then Jesus, whom she thought was the gardener, asked her, "Why are you crying, whom are you looking for?" She was crying because she thought they had taken away her Lord's body, and she did not know where they had laid him. After realizing it was Jesus, she said, "Teacher," and went to tell the disciples that she had seen the Lord (John 20:11-16).

O blessed Mary Magdalene! We know how much you loved the Lord Jesus, the teacher who healed you and changed your life. We understand how difficult it was to part from him, and how sad it was not to find him in the tomb. And we also fully understand the joy you experienced after seeing Jesus. May each of us emulate you, as well as all those who went on to believe and also proclaim the Good News of his Resurrection.
Sisters and brothers, let us not be afraid. For God does not want sorrow to overwhelm us. It is the Almighty who wipes away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). It is the Lord of all life who offers us joy, salvation, and a new life. Christ transformed the tears of Mary Magdalene into joy, peace, and the fragrance of the empty tomb. He later did likewise for the bitter sorrow of Peter, John, and the other Apostles; the doubt of Thomas; and the gloom of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He always gives us the opportunity to change and to revel in God's Kingdom. The victorious and triumphant Resurrection of Christ from the dead offers us healing and a confident spirit in the face of every question, every doubt, fear, anxiety, challenge, illness even death itself. For Jesus is the Light and Life of the whole world, and that light continues to shine in the darkness.

After concluding our Lenten journey as a church, we must live out this understanding of the Resurrection and Christ's triumph over evil. So let us testify, as true disciples and witnesses, to the victorious and risen Lord Jesus. As individuals, as congregations, and as faithful believers, let us continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit, offering to the world this message of joy, hope, and light.

Christ has risen indeed-and we bear witness to it!

With my prayers and blessings to you all,

The Most Reverend Hosam E. Naoum
Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem
Primate and President Bishop in the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East