Easter Message
His Beatitude Nasrallah-Butros Cardinal Sfeir
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
April 23/2000

“and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain”

(1 Cor. 15:17)


Dear brothers and sons,
Within the scope of the Great Jubilee, the Jubilee of the Second Millenium, the feast of Christ’s resurrection from among the dead carries a special meaning. It means that Christ who was born and lived on our land, in our area, instituted the sacraments, performed wonders and miracles among people, died on the cross to redeem them all and then has been raised from among the dead, is still the same. He is living with us and among us. Two thousand years have passed since he became man and came to our world, but he is still alive in our hearts, inspiring us what to say and do. He arouses in our hearts hope whenever we are assaulted by despair, enhances our zeal whenever it is subjected to apathy, strengthens our determination whenever our good will grows weaker and opens to us new horizons whenever we think that distress has shut before us all means of hope and salvation. Indeed, he is among us and with us. This was assured by the prophet Isaiah when speaking about Christ’s birth, he said: “Behold, the Virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means «God is with us.”1

He is with us, as stated in the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council Constituion on the Sacred Liturgy : “in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations . He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister , “the same now offering , through the ministry of priests , who formerly offered himself on the cross,” but especially in the eucharistic species . By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly , he is present when the Church prays and sings , for he has promised “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

It is through his resurrection from among the dead that Christ proved that he is truly God and Man. This is the greatest proof of his divinity. This great event which took place about two thousand years ago and no similar one has ever happened in human history, many have tried, for about two thousand years, to deny it using arguments and proofs which quickly proved to be vain. Indeed, Jesus rose from the dead and as the letter To The Hebrews also says: “Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.”3

Dear brothers and sons,
The resurrection of Christ from among the dead is the rock which we hold to, while we feel that the ground is slipping away under our feet in these tragic circumstances we are going through. We have come to feel that horizons are obstructed before us. We need not enumerate the difficulties we all are suffering. The concern about the South which is present before our eyes and on our minds, where people do not know what will become of them? Will they be displaced or left where they are, on their land, in their houses? They question themselves who is responsible for them ? What is the role of the State in such a situation ? The stifling economic crisis is a crisis that Lebanon has not experienced since World War I. There are totally ruined citizens who had never before experienced such a situation. Companies and factories are closing down and dismissing their workers. University graduates wonder what to do with their high degrees, since doors to employment and livelihood seem to be closed before them. Nobody is directing the up-coming generations to specialize in professions needed by Lebanese society. Some professions are oversaturated, because of so many practicing them specially in the fields of medecine, engineering and bar. Some agriculturers are complaining from competition which prevents them from selling their crops and make them leave their land lying fallow.

This is a dangerous state. Alone truth can save in such situations. People must be educated to truth. A great Catholic thinker says: «Often truth tries man. With no doubt, it is the strongest incentive to renounce oneself to reach the very truth. Let us take the example of Pilate. He knew well that the accused Jesus was innocent, that he had to release him for the sake of justice, and he wished to do so. But this truth entered into a struggle with his situation, as he was afraid it would cause him problems and make him lose his office. Troubles might break out and the emperor might get irritated , let alone other considerations . That is why he sacrificed truth , which does neither raise a voice nor defend itself, although the truth he renounced was filling his heart with a vague coward feeling …” . He adds , some say : “I can get rid of a problem if I stand somewhat against truth . On the contrary , accepting the truth’s consequences might cause me innumerable troubles .

How many times this happens! How often we run away from truth… Thus, compromizing with the group turns to be unjust to truth. Such minds, skillful at changing according to each one’s taste, are but mirrors.”4

Would we proclaim truth without ambiguity, as it appears to us, then we shall hope to have our situation rightened . The risen Christ is the one who told us: “You will know the truth , and the truth will set you free.”5

We greet you all on this feast, residents and emigrants. We pray God to grant you many returns, while peace will have returned to our land and will our Country have recovered what it lost, since a quarter of a century, as a consequence of its fear to speak up truth, and have recovered its right to sovereignty, independence, free decision and just, total peace.