Palm Sunday

Stopping short of Pascha: The New York Times did cover the quiet courage of the Copts

Stopping short of Pascha: The New York Times did cover the quiet courage of the Copts

I guess the big news this Easter is that there isn't any really big news at Easter. Yet.

Obviously, there was big news during Holy Week -- as in the lockdown in Egypt and in other Christian communities across the Middle East in the trembling aftermath of the hellish Palm Sunday bombings. That led to this somber New York Times feature that ran with the headline, "After Church Bombings, Egyptian Christians Are Resigned but Resolute."

It's a fine feature, one that -- as it must -- focuses on the political framework that surrounds the latest wave of persecution of Coptic Christians. After all, this is a tense land in which a near totalitarian Egyptian government that helps lock Christians in their place is also the only force strong enough to weakly protect them from the Islamic State and other truly radicalized forms of Islam.

Orthodox Christians who read this piece may not make it to the end, growing tired of the politics and violence. Where is the ultimate message of Pascha? Where are the voices of those who still believe, who continue to keep the faith despite all the suffering? Aren't they part of the story?

They are. And that theme emerges at the end of the piece -- so wait for it.

The veneration of Christian martyrs is felt most keenly at the monastery of St. Mina, an hour’s drive from Alexandria. There, barren desert has been transformed into a lush compound of gardens and monastic cells around a soaring cathedral. The seven Christians killed in last Sunday’s bombing were taken there for entombment in a martyr’s church under construction for the 2011 bombing’s 23 victims.
“The new martyrs will be buried beside the old ones,” Bishop Kyrillos Ava Mina, leader of the monastery, said as he walked around the site, weaving through a maze of wooden beams. “It is a gift for them to be buried here.” ... 
Many Coptic clerics are careful of engaging in public debate. Asked what was driving the Islamic State attacks, the monastery’s spokesman, Father Elijah Ava Mina, chuckled dryly. “I don’t know,” he said. “Ask them.”

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A question for journalists right now: Why don't Coptic Christians hold funerals during Holy Week?

A question for journalists right now: Why don't Coptic Christians hold funerals during Holy Week?

It may seem somewhat strange for GetReligion to feature a religion-news "think piece" during the middle of the week.

However, this is not an ordinary week. For churches around the world this is Holy Week -- this year on both the liturgical calendars of Eastern and Western Christianity.

Then again, this is certainly not an ordinary Holy Week for believers in the ancient Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. And how will that affect the celebration of Pascha (Easter in the West), the most important feast day in Christianity?

The bombings on Palm Sunday (click here for earlier GetReligion coverage) have led to a sad, yet totally understandable, decision by Coptic leaders in part of Egypt. Here is the top of an Associated Press report:

CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian churches, in the southern city of Minya, said on Tuesday that they will not hold Easter celebrations in mourning for 45 Coptic Christians killed this week in twin bombings of churches in two cities during Palm Sunday ceremonies.
The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said that celebrations will only be limited to the liturgical prayers "without any festive manifestations."
Minya province has the highest Coptic Christian population in the country. Copts traditionally hold Easter church prayers on Saturday evening and then spend Easter Sunday on large meals and family visits.

Yes, the family festivities are important. However, this also means that there will be no dramatic liturgical processions through public streets in the dark night of Good Friday. There will be no processions with candles through those same streets around major churches in the final dramatic moments before midnight, as Holy Saturday turns into Pascha (Easter), with the constant singing of hymns proclaiming, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in tombs bestowing life!"

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What did Jesus mean in his Good Friday words to the 'daughters of Jerusalem'?

What did Jesus mean in his Good Friday words to the 'daughters of Jerusalem'?

KRISTYN’S QUESTION:

I’m having trouble discerning what Luke was trying to communicate when he referred to the women of Jerusalem on Jesus’ trek up to Golgotha [in Luke 23:28-31]. If this is exactly what Jesus said, I have no idea what he meant. Can you shed some light on this?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Thanks to Kristyn for something Christians might ponder during the Holy Week season of sorrow that precedes Easter joy.

Jesus’ saying was poetic prophecy that, yes, can be opaque. This shows the value of owning a good one-volume Bible commentary and a “study Bible” to help with understanding. The Religion Guy consulted a variety of such reference works and they generally agree on the meaning of Jesus’ Good Friday words and the Old Testament prophecies he was quoting.

Among the four New Testament Gospels, this material only appears in Luke chapter 23. The lead-up in verse 27 merits special attention. Luke reports that as Jesus struggled on the road to crucifixion he was followed by “a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him.” The Temple authorities had rallied crowd support in seeking execution by Rome, and anti-Semites have exploited this in the Christian past.

Luke’s account tells us Jewish opinion was split.

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