Holy Week Miracle 04-16-09 Maria Khoury

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Waiting for the Miracle

Maria C. Khoury — Every year during Holy Saturday, for many centuries, there is a most magnificent miracle that continues to take place in Jerusalem since the time we were allowed as Christians to celebrate ceremonies in public. Pilgrims from all over the world gather in Jerusalem to witness the greatest of all miracles-the Miracle of the Holy Fire. 

The miracle has turned into a glorious cultural event but many simply cannot get anywhere near the Holy Sepulchre Church.  The soldiers, the police, the large crowds, the noise, the drums of the Boys Scouts and the Girl Scouts anxiously waiting to receive the Holy Fire from the Life Giving Tomb of Christ is a day long adventure. But always happens approximately 2 pm on Holy Saturday. It was a miracle in itself that finally after twenty years waiting, because of the Second Uprising and the height of the violence with lack of pilgrims in the Holy Land, I got inside the church myself.

It is an exciting celebration with the sound of many languages at the same time where representatives of many churches from all over the Holy Land come to receive the Holy Fire and carry the flame back in small lanterns to their particular churches for the Midnight Resurrection Service.  Special permits must be issued for Christians from Gaza and the West Bank to enter Jerusalem but furthermore, you need another ticket/pass to enter the Holy Sepulchre as an added bureaucracy. 

It is on this Great and Holy Saturday that the Holy Fire will be received by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, His Beatitude Theopilus III, as it has been done every year, on the same day, in the same manner, at the same time, at the same holy place of Christ’s Life Giving Tomb. This is the miracle that allows us to believe that Christ is alive and offers eternal life. This is the miracle that tells us that Christ is truly among us. This powerful miracle is another way that God communicates that we do believe in the Living God.  As we chant in our Midnight Resurrection Service: “Come ye and receive light from the unwaning Light, and glorify Christ, Who a rose from the dead.”

A spectacular parade to receive the Holy Fire is held in every town and city where small numbers of Christians live.  For example, we anxiously wait at the outskirts entering our village of Taybeh by five in the evening. The priests of all three churches, Fr. Daoud, Fr. Raed and Fr. Jack with the mayor of the village, my husband, David, usually lead the faithful with the choir chanting to meet our cousin Ibrahim with his seven year old son Philip who traditionally go to the city of Ramallah to receive the Light from a patriarchate representative who brings it from Jerusalem to Ramallah for all the Palestinian Christian communities that cannot reach the Holy City.  Philip made his dad put a sign on their little white car last year that read “Light of Christ,” and wanted to ride on top but was forced to patiently sit with the flame until he said “Christ is Risen” and gave it to the adults.

Nine years of violence in the Holy Land, back and forth, surely we have been living in the darkness of all evil where children do not even have a childhood especially following the latest devastating war in Gaza. “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5)   The strong Christian message during this Holy Week is that our hope lies in Christ and the streets will simply be filled on Holy Saturday with faithful who came to witness in Christ’s love. Be this Light for Christ no matter where you live in the world.

For us who live behind the ugly Wall, this Holy Saturday we await this glorious miracle of the Light that proceeds from the core of the stone that covers Christ’s Life Giving Tomb and once again we hope to celebrate the oldest unbroken Christian ceremony that exists in the world.

In Luke 16:15 we read that Jesus said: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” We witness the truth and receive the Holy Fire on Holy Saturday in Jerusalem so that all who are not living in the land of Christ’s Holy Resurrection can believe that Christ is the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (John 1:9)

“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:47)

Our Christian community is small and diminishing but with God’s help can survive the daily hardships that make life unbearable. We await the miracle of a free Palestine and human rights for all people.  We are waiting for a miracle of peace with justice, stability and genuine democracy to happen.  In the Holy Land, in the hearts of Christians, every day one says, Truly the Lord is Risen!

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania