Easter and the Right Thief

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By Paul Eedle

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Iraqi women preparing food for a picnic near the Monastery of Saint Matthew.

For most of Iraq's Christians, Easter is considered a greater feast than Christmas. They say, with great logic, that according to Christian doctrine while everyone on earth has been born, it is only Christ who died and was then resurrected. Christmas is called 'the Minor Feast' while Easter is known as 'the Major Feast'.

Iraqi Christians act out their own particular 'Passion Play' which is not found anywhere else in the world.

Usually over night between Saturday and Easter Sunday, churches enact the play of the 'Right Thief'. This tells the story of what happened to the thief who was crucified along with Christ and went to Heaven because of his faith during his dying moments. This incident is part of all Christian traditions but the Chaldaeans have developed it further.

In the play, enacted across churches in Iraq, the thief heads for Heaven's gates after he has died and asks to be let in. The angel says he was a thief and cannot come in but the thief insists, saying he repented before he died and was forgiven by Christ. When the angel asks for proof, the thief shows a crucifix. At this point, the angel kneels before the crucifix and lets in the 'right thief'.

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 Sects
 Iraqi Christians
 Easter