Hope beyond suffering – Seychelles Christians reflect on true meaning behind Easter Sunday
Easter mass at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the Seychelles capital of Victoria, attracts a large crowd. (Patrick Joubert / Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Churches across the 115-island archipelago of Seychelles were packed on Sunday as the country’s Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ with Easter mass.
Religious services with a special focus on the meaning of Easter were held this morning by the Roman Catholic, Anglican and a number of other Christian denominations represented in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter, or Pascha, on Sunday April 12 this year.
This year it seems the overwhelming focus of the Easter messages centred around a message of hope.
Faith in Christ brings a ‘deeper meaning’
At the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the Seychelles capital of Victoria, Bishop Denis Wiehe gave the Catholics of Seychelles, which make up around 76 percent of the Seychelles population of 90,000, an inspiring message.
|Bishop Denis Wiehe addressing the congregation during Easter mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the Seychelles capital of Victoria. (Patrick Joubert / Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY|
Reflecting upon Jesus’ resurrection after the pain and suffering of his crucifixion, Bishop Wiehe said the resurrection of Jesus Christ gave meaning to the “pain, anguish and suffering that is part of our life, part of every human experience”.
“We often complain: ‘What have I done to deserve such an ordeal?’, ‘Why me?’, ‘Why so much pain, suffering and evil around me and in the world?’,” said the Bishop.
As he explained, coming face to face with evil, was an unavoidable part of human life, adding that each person had seen their share of suffering.
Faith in Christ does not solve the problem of suffering, according to Wiehe, but he said it could provide a deeper meaning and a new sense of purpose to people’s lives, recounting the story of the two disheartened disciples on the road to Emmaüs who received new hope after realising that the stranger they had broken bread with on the journey had been none other than Christ himself.
“The true joy of Easter comes from the tremendous hope that swells in our heart when we ourselves meet Jesus,” said the Bishop. “This inner joy endures despite the many difficulties that we inevitably face on our human journey. Indeed, it gives us much strength to face these difficulties and overcome them.”
Hope of Easter is ‘not naïve’
Not far away from the Cathedral, at St. Paul’s Church, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Seychelles, the Right Reverend James Wong, called on believers to focus on hope as an “anchor for the soul”.
“This Easter Sunday... we gather to celebrate this touching moment when the stone which sealed the life and love of God has been rolled away and our hopes are now really alive in the resurrection of Jesus,” said Bishop Wong.
Wong said it was often the unspoken strength that allows the faithful to rise each day and face the uncertainties of their lives.
“In the midst of our losses and let downs, we can anchor our souls with divine strength,” he said.
|Whilst addressing the multitude of believers gathered in the St Paul's Cathedral, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Seychelles, the Right Reverend James Wong, called on believers to focus on hope as an “anchor for the soul”. (Patrick Joubert / Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY|
The hope of Easter is not the hope of a naïve fool or nagging optimist, it is hope that meets us in the real world in the Seychelles.
In the resurrection of Jesus, Bishop Wong said that God embedded an “anchor of hope sturdy enough to withstand any cyclone”, adding that despite the sins of their past, anyone could hope for help and mercy from God.
“This day, the Risen is simply asking us: Are we living to die or are we dying to live?” asked the Anglican Bishop.
He quoted the congregation a passage from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus states to his disciples and the crowd: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me, for whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Similarly, the St. Paul’s Church of the Anglican Diocese of Seychelles, the second largest congregation also attracted a large throng of believers. (Patrick Joubert / Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY
Following mass, the congregation greeted each other outside of churches, before heading to their respective homes.
"Easter is very special to me. It is almost on par with Christmas. After forty days of making sacrifices, we rejoice in a special family lunch. We will rejoice that though the resurrection of Christ, our place in everlasting life is guaranteed! So why not rejoice!" says Diane Asba to SNA.
"Without Easter Christianity does not exist!" says Marthe Adrienne. "On this day, we are grateful to the Savior who lived amongst us and died to save us!"
The message of hope expressed by the church leaders also resounded in the parishioners comments.
"Through Easter we have hope that those who have died, our relatives and friends lives on in Christ resurrected on Easter," says Gerome Barro to SNA whilst embracing and greeting other parishioners.