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2012
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"Let us sing our Alleluia together!”: Solemn Mass for the Holy Pascha of the Resurrection of the Lord in Jerusalem.

Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 8 April, 2012

And here it is, the long-awaited day, the day filled with endless joy, the day that everyone has been hoping for and that, in this very place, is fulfilled. Here God entered into human history with all himself and brought us all the strength of his novelty.

On the morning of Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre has a festive air, and in the hearts of all present is the announcement of the resurrection that went out from here in this very place to the whole world. There are so many here – male and female religious of the many congregations of the Holy Land, the faithful from the local Christian community – all gathered here around the Aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre to assist at Solemn Mass. Presiding over the liturgy is His Excellency Mgr. Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, together with His Excellency Card. William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission, and dozens of other priests, including many Franciscans of the Custody. Animating the liturgy is the Magnificat choir of the Custody of the Holy Land, under the direction of Hania Soudah Sabbara and accompanied by Brother Armando Pierucci, Director of the Magnificat Institute, the Franciscans’ music school in Jerusalem.

In his homily, Mgr. Twal wished everyone present and all those in communion with the Holy Land from afar a holy Feast of the Resurrection, even while aware of the difficulties and uncertainty menacing the Middle East, the peoples of this land, the Christians of these places. But Christ is calling us even today, like the women who went to the tomb two thousand years ago, to announce the Good News, a joyful testimony of the Pascha of the Lord, so “we do not have fear or doubt: the tomb is empty; the Crucified One has risen and lives. No one can appropriate it: no place, no country, no people”. This is the seed of the new peace, the force of opening love in a universal sense, starting from this Holy Land where the Mother Church is found, to which so many turn to seek Christ, to discover and rediscover their own roots. Therefore, the Patriarch continued, “with our behavior and our conscience, we must be a living testimony of the people of our countries, for our pilgrims and for the tourists”. Christ is truly risen, lives and triumphs over evil forever. For this reason, whatever injustice or persecution has struck the Church in history or that can still put her to the test, will not shake the faith and perseverance of Christians, their sense of belonging to Jerusalem and to the Church of Christ. In fact, along with the tangible proofs of the resurrection, the greatest testimony is the radical conversion of heart, which touched the Roman centurion under Jesus’ cross and the Apostles united in the Cenacle with the doors closed for fear of what might happen to them. The resurrection of Christ, affirmed Mgr. Twal, calls us with strength to bury our mundane inclinations, our religious divisions, our violence, our lack of faith and our fear in Christ’s tomb. We must “cast off the old man […] and put on the new man, created by God in justice and true holiness” (cf. Ep 4:22-24), which means to be at the same time a good citizen who believes in good, in peace, and in “abundant life”. Finally, the Patriarch shared a thought for all the peoples of the Middle East who are on a path of authentic renewal, for the sick, the elderly, prisoners, those who suffer from injustice and violence, and those who cannot live the joy of Easter or who, although desirous of it, cannot come to the Holy Sepulchre that “one day we can sing our Alleluia together”, calling for the fulfillment of the dream of peace that might spread out from here to the Holy Land and the whole world, and that Christ makes us rise up with him( cf. Col 3).

At the end of the celebration, the solemn procession took place around the Aedicule, the place where the resurrection occurred, carrying the Gospel Lectionary and singing jubilant hymns. The procession, swarmed on all sides by the faithful, made stops at four points in the Basilica: the north and south sides of the Tomb, the Stone of Unction and in front of the Sepulchre, where four deacons proclaimed the four gospels of the resurrection, thus symbolically announcing it to the whole world and to all nations.

The traditional exchange of greetings then took place with the Patriarch and the authorities, in the Chapel of the Apparition.

It is an exultation of colors, languages and songs, Easter in Jerusalem. Orthodox Christians are also in great celebration today for Palm Sunday. The many people who came here could truly feel the greatness of the mystery that was accomplished in this place – Jesus is risen and lives on today, here are the signs of this extraordinary fact: his empty tomb can be seen and touched, the tome where Peter and John also stood on Easter morning, finally opening their eyes and understanding that human history had been forever changed.

Text by Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Marie-Armelle Beaulieu

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