The physical reality of Easter is captured in a new book which brings together voices from the first Holy Week with those from across the Holy Land in today’s Covid-hit world.
With forewords by Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Justin Welby, Holy Week Voices from the Holy Land includes immersive poetry from a priest who experienced Lent and Easter in lockdown London and reflections from Christians living in crisis in the Holy Land in a new prayer resource.
Facing the pain of a closed church during Lent and Easter 2020, when Covid restrictions put paid to any corporate celebrations, Father Richard Nesbitt of Our Lady of Fatima church in White City penned poems through the eyes of those who experienced Christ’s Passion, death and Resurrection.
These 15 poems, which take the reader from Bethany to Jerusalem and Emmaus, are written in accessible language from the perspective of key players in the Holy Week drama from Judas to Pontius Pilate and Mary Magdalene and are each placed side by side with Scripture and reflections from Christians living in the Holy Land today.
A pilgrimage operator, charity workers, academics, priests and a religious sister across a range of denominations are among those offering their perspective on the poems and Scripture as followers of Christ confronted with the Easter message while living in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan in a time of global pandemic.
In his foreword, Archbishop Welby says: “In a way which draws on the Ignatian tradition, he has imagined himself into the position of actors in the great Easter drama, bringing their feelings alive for us with his simply accessible poems.
“These may serve to enrich our appreciation of the Bible passages which, for some people, can lose their immediacy through repetition.
“The Scriptural texts, Father Richard’s poems and the reflections from residents of the Holy Land combine powerfully to make vivid the physical reality of the extraordinary Easter narratives, which are so foundational to our common faith.”
The absence of physical pilgrims has had disastrous consequences for all communities in the Holy Land but especially for those living in Bethlehem and Nazareth where 80 per cent of the economy is based on pilgrimage and tourism.
Proceeds from the book will help fund the work of charity Friends of the Holy Land which supports vulnerable Christian families across the region with education costs, unemployment relief, house renovations, medical and emergency needs.
Cardinal Nichols writes: “This book embodies the core aims of the Friends of the Holy Land and I am delighted to recommend it to you as a prayer resource for your journey with Christ through Lent and Eastertide.
“I hope it will promote prayer with and for our fellow Christians in the Holy Land and raise urgently needed funds to support initiatives on the ground.
“Both prayer and practical help make a real difference to the lives of Christians there, helping them to continue their presence as living witnesses of the light and love of our Blessed Lord in the land in which he lived.”
Friends of the Holy Land’s Peter Rand said: “It has been a joy to see this book come together, bearing testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit today as the poems spoke time and time again to the situation of our friends in the Holy Land.
“It hurts us all not to be able to be together with loved ones in these times, but our hope is that this book will vividly bring to life connections not just across geography but across millennia as we are confronted by our inter-connectedness regardless of Covid-19.
“Who knows what Lent and Easter 2021 will look like? But my prayer is that we will all be blessed by this book, and that it will bring hope especially to our friends in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan who are currently in desperate crisis.”
All funds from the book, which costs £7.99, will go to Friends of the Holy Land. Orders can be placed via the charity’s website, by phoning 01926 512980 or by emailing email@example.com