“We do not have the right to remain silent.” Christ is Risen

The apotheosis of the Paschal Triduum: Easter Sunday morning mass in the Holy Sepulchre with S.B. Fouad Twal presiding.

Anticipation was high among the faithful who had come from the four quarters of the world to take part in the service. Faithful like Josephine from the Ivory Coast, who did not hide her joy at celebrating the feast in front of the tomb of the Risen Christ. Faithful like Kate, a young Hungarian member of the choir at the ceremony, who realized that after a year of rehearsal she was finally in Jerusalem, singing Scarlatti’s “Exultate Deo”.

On this day when Christians around the world proclaim their faith, His Beatitude invited the assembled faithful to “pick up the baton relayed by the disciples to announce, to cry out without shame that Christ is risen!” He continued, “dear brothers and sisters,we do not have the right to remain silent.” This proclamation cannot be made without confidence, like Martha who in spite of her grief reminds us that whatever we ask of God He will give us.

While the celebration brought together a large number of priests in front of the aedicule, where the altar had been erected, and four successive masses were celebrated inside the empty tomb. Fra Dobromir Jasztal, Custodial Vicar, celebrated the last of them, after the Apostolic Nuncio. “This is the first time I’ve celebrated Mass here, on the very day of the Resurrection. It is a very particular mass and a very great privilege. Throughout the celebration I was taken by the mystery of the new life that is given to each of us and to all of humanity, a new life in Christ. Ever since the first Easter morning, new life has perpetually emanated from this place, from this empty tomb.”

On the other side of the door, we hear the Patriarch offering the memorial sacrifice of the passion and the resurrection, while at the same time everyone around the aedicule and in the Chapel of the Apparition to Mary is praying silently. Time seems to stand still as each person contemplates what is happening on this day in this place.

The assembly gains new life for the final procession that closes the three-hour service. Franciscans and seminarians escort the Patriarch around the aedicule. The procession pauses four times for the announcement of the resurrection in the four gospels and the meeting of Simon and Cleopas with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The Custody and many of the faithful will celebrate this last tomorrow at Emmaus Qubeibe.

After the final benediction the Patriarch received greetings from the Consuls General of the four Latin nations known as the protectors of the Christian communities in the Holy Land (Italy, France, Belgium and Spain) and then left to the sound of Handel’s Hallelujah.

Pilgrims continue to stream into the basilica, obeying in their turn—as do thousands of people every year—the voice of the angel who said, “Come and see the place where he was laid.” The tomb is empty. “Al masih qam – Christ is risen.” “Hakan qam – He is truly risen.”

The Custody of the Holy Land, with its friars, volunteers and employees hope that the spirit of Easter will radiate in souls and hearts from Jerusalem, throughout the Middle East, and in all the Franciscan provinces. May the joy that fills our hearts touch our readers and friends wherever they are.

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