“The Resurrection,” El Greco
He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
From the National Catholic Register this week on the persecution and martyrdom of Christians:
The extraordinary 2010 film Of Gods and Men, by the French director Xavier Beauvois, depicts the kidnapping and murder of nine Trappist monks in Algeria by Islamic fundamentalists in 1996. In one of its most memorable moments, an old tape machine plays Tchaikovsky’s Grand Theme from Swan Lake while the camera focuses on the monks drinking red wine as they contemplate their impending martyrdom.
The atmosphere of dread in that moment is matched by the abiding serenity of the Trappists, made all the more powerful by the fact that the events of the film actually happened.
Eight years on from the release of the film, there is now the added poignancy that the real-life monks depicted in the movie are soon to be beatified by the Church as martyrs and role models. It is a message of hope in the Resurrection for this Easter season and always.
Martyrdom, persecution and suffering remain a part of daily life for tens of millions of the world’s Christians, most so in North Africa and across the Middle East and the Holy Land. The beloved Martyrs of Algeria are not alone, as the ranks of Christian martyrs have been increasing every day, even as suffering Christian communities display fortitude and trust in the Risen Lord in the face of hatred and violence.
In 2014, the evil plague of the Islamic State (ISIS) brought death, persecution and displacement to most of the Christians of Iraq, in particular those in the northern city of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. In North Africa, there was the powerful spiritual legacy of the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded on a beach in Libya by ISIS in February 2015. They died with the name of Jesus upon their lips and are now honored as martyred saints of the Coptic Church of Egypt.
“Christ the Lord is Risen today” on pipe organ: