Easter Message 2022
Message of Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay on the occasion of Easter 2022
The First Easter in Jerusalem and Our Easter Today
Beloved Brothers and Sisters, Sons and Daughters of our Maronite Eparchy,
The feast of Easter is an annual celebration where the Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church announces, in the voice of her sons and daughters, that Christ rose from the dead, that He truly rose. We believe, and we testify with the apostles and disciples to the fact of His resurrection. As the apostle Paul says: “If Christ was not raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
On this blessed feast, we raise hymns of gratitude to the Lord God, because today we are able to come together in celebration, gathered around the altar and the Eucharist. Let us remember to appreciate this but also remain vigilant, so that we can continue to gather and also help protect the vulnerable in our community.
And so, once again, we meditate upon what happened in Jerusalem at the time of the Last Supper and the following days, and how the earthly life of Our Lord Jesus Christ ended. When we ponder this, we see that the first Easter was celebrated quite differently from how we celebrate today. At that Passover in Jerusalem, the disciples gathered for their Last Supper with the Lord. They were filled with questions and were naturally fearful. Then came the apparent catastrophe of Great Friday. We see the great sadness in the heart of the Virgin Mary at seeing Jesus hanging on the Cross. We also see the disciples, confused and also fearful for their lives, uncertain of their fate, hesitant, and unsure of what to do next.
But on the third day, He rose from the dead – something unthinkable to human reasoning did happen. It was women who had gone to the tomb, to anoint Jesus’ body, when they found the stone had been rolled away from the door and Jesus no longer inside. Upon their return, they told the apostles: “He has risen, and is not here” (Mark 16:6). This news was the single biggest turning point in the history of humanity: the Resurrection of the Lord transformed sadness into joy, fear into courage, despair into hope and death into life.
Easter, as we celebrate it today, must take us back to some of what the apostles experienced. The tragedy of the war, dictatorships, poverty, injustice, hunger, diseases and epidemics continues to trouble the lives of many, leaving all of us fearful, uncertain and hesitant. The worsening economic and social crises in our homeland Lebanon, the war in the Ukraine, and issues closer to home such as religious freedom and assisted dying legislation, raise more than one question mark, and give us cause for great concern and anxiety. What will the future look like for us and for our children?
However, Easter opens for us new horizons to contemplate today’s reality. While the Feast of the Resurrection may not offer quick solutions to complex issues or wars breaking out, it is a miraculous event from which springs good hope, and a love that forgives sin and saves souls and renews life. Let us be clear that this hope is not some abstract idea, a metaphysical philosophy, or a new social vision. Rather, it is the person of Jesus Christ Himself, who was incarnated and lived among us, who bore our sins and our transgressions, who was crucified and died. But He defeated death, rising on the third day in great power and glory, restoring life and opening the path to heaven and eternal life.
The Resurrection is the feast of hope which never disappoints, despite our suffering, despite wars, and despite loss of loved ones and possessions. It plants hope in the hearts of the sick, the forgotten and the marginalised. This is why in our Maronite Eparchy, we announced 2022 as the Year of Hope. We see signs of this hope every day, in the humanitarian and social assistance generously extended to those who lost their homes and jobs due to the recent floods. We have also seen it in countries that have opened their borders to receive refugees fleeing the dangers of death, war and destruction. Signs of hope were also evident in the generosity of the Lebanese community in Australia towards their families and those struggling in Lebanon, especially during the recent crises. These and similar humanitarian initiatives build a bridge of compassion, delivering much needed hope, dignity, and a reason to stay and to persevere.
Beloved brothers and sisters,
The Church’s journey, from the first Easter in Jerusalem until today, is a journey of witness and hope amid tragedies, challenges, and persecution. We are in dire need of the true peace which emanates from the heart of our Lord Jesus, that peace fills us with the grace of hope and the strength of witness. How beautiful it is to renew our faith on this Feast, asking the Lord to give us a faithful heart that listens to His words: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be alarmed” (John 14:27).
I wish all of you, your families and your loved ones Happy Easter.
“Christ is Risen … He is truly Risen
And we are witnesses to that.”
+ Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Maronite Bishop of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania