A Palestinian Christian Tentative to Keep Hope Alive
In my Easter talk, I spoke about the indivisible Paschal trinity, which is formed of pain, death and resurrection in the Christian lexicon; and of struggle, martyrdom and freedom in the Palestinian lexicon. As long as we are still be in the Easter period, I would like to reflect further about this trinity particularly that one of my colleagues discussed the issue with me. He said that the Easter equation is not dual, meaning “to cross over from… to” and it is not a trinity as I have explained it earlier, but it is a quadruple because we cannot leap from “Good Friday” to “Easter Sunday” without having to pass through “Holy Saturday,” which itself was not interpreted by the word “rest” – the Arabic meaning of “Saturday” – but by the meaning of “waiting,” the fourth missing word of the equation.
This analysis caught my attention for its importance and factuality: truly, Christ had to reside in the tomb throughout Saturday and experience the darkness of the tomb with its humidity. During this time the Disciples were seized with fear, consternation and anticipation, swinging between doubt and assurance and getting over, sometimes, to the edge of frustration and despair because their dreams were shattered and their Master was put to death as they expected Him to save the people. All their expectations were gone with the wind squandered uselessly like a mirage and scattered like dust in the air. The Holy Scripture and in particular St. Peter in his epistle says that Christ, at this period of time, travelled down to the abyss to shatter the gates of hell and release Adam and Eve and all the righteous people of the Old Testament and open up the gates of Heaven for them. But this important theological theory speaks about the unknown and could be theologically sound because Christ’s redemption mission incorporated all fallen humans starting with Adam and Eve and extending to the forefathers, the prophets, the righteous people of the Old Testament and those who lived during His time and those who would come after Him until our very day and beyond until He returns in His Glory, known in theology as the “comprehensive redemption.”
In fact, the space that exists between death and resurrection that we called “Saturday of waiting” is a bewildering existential status, strange and complex; where there is confusion and hesitancy, fear of the unknown and the anxiety of waiting; there are queries that rush to mind regarding fate and destiny, and even there is a wager on hope and expectancy. It is as though you have given an appointment to a friend and whose arrival you await but he is very late to arrive and you worry and fear for him, so you make enquiries about him and try every possible means to locate him… you live in a state of anxiety over anticipation and could be disappointed if he were not to arrive, while the passing of time becomes slow and heavy. Experience taught us that agreeable moments pass with the speed of lightning whereas bitter moments go slow and dull and seem to last a whole age.
In the case of Jesus the time lapse was short “so that You did not allow Your Sanctity to see deterioration.” In the case of the disciples their fear was soon transformed into joy and their doubt into assurance and their waiting into an encounter. It urged them to set out with all their will and determination to proclaim, “the Lord, truly, resurrected and we are witnesses to that.” But in our case, our wait has become too long and continued to go on for years, for decades and even for a whole century. Here, we are crossing the threshold of a new decade and even that of a new millennium filled with the hope that the end of the dark tunnel is close at hand and that our salvation is imminent. Yet, once again, we find ourselves plunging into bewilderment, anxiety, wait and are at a loss, which would increase the obscurity of the oppression and humiliation as though resurrection for us does not exist. All would be saying, “It has gone far too long and yet, occupation does not let up.” With all that we still go on waiting impatiently under the spectre of occupation.
What do we do? Is there a way out? Should we despair and lose hope? What is the solution?
I have indeed tumbled into a critical dilemma to which I have no solution to present to the reader who reiterates with me “how difficult waiting is;” or refuses to wait saying, “the one receiving the flogging could not be compared to the one who keeps the count” and he thus falls prey to defeatism saying, “let’s submit to the fate of all those around” or “a palm could never stop an awl.” Could we be stronger than Israel, which fights with weapons from America? Or he would be yelling for help like yells of a drowning guy who clings to a straw and says, “If you call to a living person you would reach his ears but those whom you invoke are lifeless” in condemnation of the petrified human conscience, the spectator Arab Governments and the repressed nations. I could have, though, invoked the determination of some, those that believe “no right would be lost whenever there is a claimant behind it” and who claim that “one day is in your favour and the other is against you” whereas the actual fact is “one century is in your favour and the other is against you”. At times I hear someone say, “Patience is a means to deliverance” or reiterates with me the saying “this is a difficult episode that would soon dispel,” or as Mr. Arafat always likes to say “O Mountain, no storm is able to shake you” because victory is an ally of absolute right and “absolute right is supreme that it could never be superseded”… and there are so many other wise sayings and resounding slogans.
The ultimate result and the propitious conclusion of all these words is absolutely clear: no matter how long the “Saturday of waiting” protracts, there will be the dawn of Sunday to come with all the Light, Life and Resurrection that it carries with it. As His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah said in his last Palm Sunday homily: “today we are in a dispute for the sake of our liberty and our land, yet, we should not persist in this conflict. Similarly, our right should not remain supplanted but right should prevail and no one possesses the right to dominate over the other because in the eyes of God we all are equal, and we are believing, humble and good citizens who cooperate towards building a new united community. In the end nothing would prevail but the absolute right. Many would die, yet. Many would be injured and many humiliated, but there is no escape from a just end: there will be peace and justice as God wishes his Holy City to be a city of Peace and Justice.” In his Easter Sunday homily, he also said, “Resurrection is an inexhaustible source of hope for us. Military might or any other could never supplant these inalienable rights nor replace the image of God. Although today support is veered towards might and power, which manifests itself through blockades and bombardment, these are only means that could demolish our homes and reap more sacrifices but they are not capable of reaping the spirit of a nation and the image of God from within any individual human and they are incapable of destroying the hope that dwells in us.”
We have waited for long, yet, we have to draw on additional patience and waiting. I have a good announcement to make for you: “Dawn is coming, dawn is impending” and we are now at the last sector of the night just before dawn break and the light of the morning, God willing. There is no room for despair where there is life and there is no life where there is despair. How constricted life could be if it were devoid of hope! We shall continue to wager on hope and we shall never lose anticipation no matter how long a wait it takes.