“Ekhristos Anesti!” “Alithos Anesti!” These are words commonly heard in Egyptian Christian circles at this time: “Christ is risen!” we greet one another, “He is risen indeed!” we reply.
Happy Easter! It’s a busy time for Christians in Egypt. Coptic Orthodox Christians, who make up about 90 per cent of the Christian population here, spend Passion Week, the last week of Lent, in daily evening church services. Each service commemorates part of Christ’s journey to the cross in an attempt to relive the exact sequence of events leading to Christ’s crucifixion.
Immediately preceding Passion Week is Palm Sunday, a joyful celebration in churches across the country of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Families gather together to create crosses and other ornaments using palm branches. I hope you like the one I made (see picture). It’s a fun time—especially for children!
Passion Week comes to its pinnacle on Good Friday where Egyptian Christians of all denominations spend the day at church, reflecting upon Christ’s incredible atoning sacrifice for each one of us.
Saturday night is Easter Eve! Following a church service, Coptic Orthodox families get together for a late past-midnight meal to break their 55-day long vegetarian fast.
Easter Day! It’s a time for the entire extended family to get together for a big celebratory feast.
Having lived in the US for several years, it’s interesting to note that while Christmas seems to be a bigger event than Easter in the West, Easter is described in Arabic as “El Eid El Kabeer” which translates “the big feast”, as opposed to Christmas—“the small feast”. All bias aside, I believe that’s the way it should be for Christians. While Christ’s miraculous birth is of significant importance, Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are undoubtedly the foundation of the Christian faith.
But the ultimate question that every Christian worldwide must ask is: Am I living a life worthy of the enormous cost paid for me on the cross? Does my everyday life outside of church reflect the God whose name I bear as a CHRISTian? Or do I deny Christ like Peter did or sell Christ like Judas did?
The glorious news is that as soon as we recognise our weaknesses, we can declare with the Apostle Paul, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Hallelujah, He is risen Indeed! Have a glorious Easter.