[ Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart is head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Aleppo, Syria, and frequently gives voice to the suffering of the Syrian people in media outlets around the world. The following is a meditation for Holy Week Jeanbart offered to Crux.]
On the eve of Holy Week, the memorial of the passion and an important liturgical period for our Oriental Churches, the Lord wanted to show His people His Great Mercy by restoring life to Lazarus!
It was an extraordinary occurrence, unprecedented and capital in the unfolding of the events that led to the resurrection of the Son of Man, who has made the world new. This symbol of the divine power of Jesus strengthened the faith of the disciples.
This unparalleled event is a luminous emanation of Divine Mercy towards men, handicapped and enslaved by the precariousness of this ephemeral and fragile world.
This manifestation of the glory of the Son, who came to the world to restore life to man, will impact all the events of this particularly significant week of the history of salvation, and I would add, of history as a whole.
It also marks, each year, the moments of the Great Week of Lent, Holy Week, which in our Eastern liturgy, constantly relays the passion of the redemption and the joys of the resurrection! It’s the evolution of the fatal grip of the inescapable disintegration of humanity, which is transformed by the mercy of the One who liberates us, into a progressive reconstruction of a new man, resplendent of the divine light and forever living in Him who is the source of all life.
To recognize his weakness and to convert in order to return to the Risen Christ, who gave himself entirely for the love of His people, sheds light on all the moments of this time of grace and of infallible hope that our liturgical celebrations seek to reflect, through a careful illustration of the Word of God and the meditation of the Church.
In these blessed days, Lent comes to an end and we are on the threshold of the Easter Celebration, a feast that marks the passage from a life of slavery and dependence to a new life in the promised land, a land of freedom and of divine graces, which we have inherited on the day of the resurrection.
Now we are beginning to live Holy Week with its celebrations and prayers which the Church has established as a help and a means to climb up to Golgotha, in order to accompany Christ on his painful journey to His crucifixion and burial, and the arrival of the dawn of deliverance.
It’s a week during which we are all invited to remember the last hours of our Heavenly King’s life, and to review through our beautiful liturgy all that he has endured for us and the price He paid to save us, weakening the chains of evil and breaking the grip of death, opening before us the paths of dignity and Eternal Life.
During the first three days of this Holy Week, we share with the Church “the prayer of the Groom”, i.e. the future bridegroom, whom we await during the vigils, careful to the announcement of his arrival and ready to to welcome Him in the same way as the “Wise Virgins.”
On Holy Thursday, we recall the moment of the Last Supper, during which Christ instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist. In the evening, we accompany and share His sufferings on the Mount of Olives and in the prison until his crucifixion by rereading together all the Gospels that tell the journey of his passion until his burial.
On Friday, we remember the burial and placing in the tomb. On Saturday evening, we are preparing for the Resurrection with the beautiful celebration of ‘the brightness of light’, which predicts the joy, the hope and the dazzling victory of the Resurrection!
Whether we have fasted during the previous weeks, or whether we’ve not been able to do so, we are all together in the final step that makes us worthy to participate in the celebrations and solemnities of the Resurrection, which is the feast of feasts, and the season of seasons.
Let us therefore all go forth to celebrate these blessed days, and fulfill our duty of gratitude and gratefulness to He who has offered us His life, and given us everything. If we should fail in this duty, let us trust the merciful Lord.
This last week of Lent, begins just after Palm Sunday, and we call it the “Great Week”, it’s our last chance to walk with Christ in his sufferings and to express our love and gratitude for all His gifts as much as for the grace He has given us to remain faithful to His Gospel.
We will pray and meditate on the prodigious events that have upset the rules of this world to create the new living man of the Faith in God, a new life transfigured by the Risen One and imbued with evangelical values that manifest in charity and the gift of self, fueled by the source of an unwavering faith in He who is all-powerful and who has given himself entirely to his people.
I wish you all a blessed Holy Week and a good preparation for Easter, the feast of the Living Christ among us forever!