“Let us celebrate the feast with the young, and holding branches in our hands, let us praise Him saying, Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”
(Vespers Hymn of Palm Sunday)
The final Sunday before the Resurrection celebrates the Triumphal Entry of Christ into the city of Jerusalem and signifies the end of our Lenten journey and the beginning of Holy Week.
During much, if not all, of the liturgical readings for the preceding year, we follow Our Lord’s preaching, teaching and healing in the villages and countryside of Galilee and Judea. Yesterday and today, as Holy Week approaches, we focus our attention on the great city of Jerusalem and the surrounding town of Bethany, located on the east side of the Mount of Olives. It is here that we center our attention on Lazarus whom Jesus rose from the dead after having been dead for several days. The name Lazarus comes from the Hebrew and means, “God is my help” or “God has helped”. (John 11:3,11)
As the story goes, Jesus loved Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus, therefore, it was not surprising or unusual that Jesus in his humanity was moved to tears by the mourning of this family which was especially dear to Him. (John 11:35)
For Jesus performed a joyous miracle by raising Lazarus from the dead, which was a foreshadowing of His own glorious Resurrection!
The Church Fathers have written that the raising of Lazarus is a sign of our own spiritual resurrection during the present life. The Fathers interpret Lazarus’ raising by stating that each Christian through repentance and baptism comes out of the darkness of a spiritual death and is loosened from the hands of sin, thus being granted a new life in Christ.
The Feast of Palm Sunday, came at a time in Jesus’s ministry that was filled with hope and controversy, enthusiasm and hostility, joy and tension. Jesus to many, especially the ruling elite and the Sanhedrin, was a potential rabble rouser, a threat to the status quo and the political and religious order of the day. Jesus entered into the city on a donkey not as worldly Kings but as the humble King of Peace, fulfilling the prophecy of Zachariah, “Look your King is coming to you! He comes triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on a donkey – on a colt, on the foal of an ass”.
The Feast symbolically proclaims Christ as King by holding palms and branches in their hands. Palm Sunday thus is the beginning of the much more greater sequence of events leading to the passion of Christ for the salvation of the world.
It has been summarized thusly, “he who triumphantly comes to Jerusalem, comes to die.” In the background of this day stands the challenging shadow of the Cross, for those who acclaim Christ as King will behold Him as the Crucified One.
So, as we celebrate this day we actually are invited to follow our King during the coming days of His passion, which will bring us to the very gates of God’s Kingdom, for His voluntary sacrifice on the Cross gives us, the faithful, access to the very presence of God.
This is the message of this day! Please make every effort, you who have already come to Church and you who have tarried until now, to come and experience and accompany Our Lord in His final journey to His glorious Resurrection!