Tag Archives: Palm Sunday

The hours of the ultimate hour.

In 2018 Orthodox Easter, Pascha, falls on April 8th, a week later than Easter in the West. So today is our remembrance of Christ’s Entrance into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday. Saturday evening I am writing after attending our Vigil service for the feast, where  toward the end of the service we were given palm branches to hold, to take home and bring back tomorrow morning and hold them all through Divine Liturgy.

This morning, on the feast of Lazarus Saturday, another feast of victory, five catechumens were baptized and received into the church. The scent of holy chrism drifted over to me as they were being anointed in chrismation and I began to weep.

All week the Newly Illumined will wear their white robes to services. I caught a picture of one of them receiving a hug. What a gloriously happy day for us all!

You can see how even before palms were given into hands, the cathedral was fully decorated with them. Blooms are opening to decorate the church gardens about now as well.

I wanted to share an excerpt from a pamphlet on Holy Week by Fr. Alexander Schmemann:

But as in Lazarus we have recognized the image of each man, in this one city we acknowledge the mystical center of the world and indeed of the whole creation. For such is the biblical meaning of Jerusalem, the focal point of the whole history of salvation and redemption, the holy city of God’s advent. Therefore, the Kingdom inaugurated in Jerusalem is a universal Kingdom, embracing in its perspective all men and the totality of creation.

For a few hours – yet these were the decisive time, the ultimate hour of Jesus, the hour of fulfillment by God of all His promises, of all His decisions. It came at the end of the entire process of preparation revealed in the Bible: it was the end of all that God did for men. And thus this short hour of Christ’s earthly triumph acquires an eternal meaning. It introduces the reality of the Kingdom into our time, into all hours, makes this Kingdom the meaning of time and its ultimate goal.

The Kingdom was revealed in this world – from that hour – its presence judges and transforms human history. And at the most solemn moment of our liturgical celebration, when we receive from the priest a palm branch, we renew our oath to our King and confess His Kingdom as the ultimate meaning and content of our life. We confess that everything in our life and in the world belongs to Christ, nothing can be taken away from its sole real Owner, for there is no area of life in which He is not to rule, to save and to redeem.

– Fr. Alexander Schmemann

We cry like the children, Hosanna!

A palm frond was waiting for me when Kate and I arrived home last night from the road trip, thanks to my thoughtful friends who picked up an extra one at the Mapalm in window 16tins for Palm Sunday service I’d missed. But I forgot to take it to church this morning, so it remains where they saved it, on the windowsill above my kitchen sink.

During the whole of Divine Liturgy today almost everyone held a palm branch, even the clergy and choir, while carrying their usual books or babies, etc. The little girls all know how to weave the leaflets into a sort of mat. There were enough fronds for me to have a second one, and I was handed a branch of pussy willows, too. I tried to hold it alongside my palm, but the soft willow buds one by one were sliced off when they slid between the sharp leaflets of the palm frond, so that the floor around me became littered with them.

We were remembering the first time that Jesus was hailed by people carrying palm branches, a symbol of victory and peace. We learned in the homily this morning that it was common for more than a quarter-million people to be in Jerusalem for Passover, and these gl Christ icon w palms crp 2016 people had heard about Lazarus being raised from the dead. Suddenly Jesus was acclaimed by multitudes — and children are particularly mentioned as joining in with shouting — who spread tree branches and their coats on the streets before him to ride on; it was quite the scene.

But Christ didn’t come to be enthroned as an earthly leader, as most of the crowd assumed, or to rule as they do, by external power. He wants to deliver us from the death in our souls and to rule by His Holy Spirit in our hearts. St. Andrew of Crete (8th century) encourages us to spread before the Lord not branches which wither, but ourselves, “clothed in his grace, clothed completely in Him.”

When it was time to take my goddaughter Mary up for communion, I left my branches on a bench, because Mary is a wiggly child and I didn’t trust myself to securely hold her and them at the same time.  Keeping her in my arms, I picked up the palm frond again when we made our procession out the doors and around the church singing:

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion,
Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God.
Like the children with the palms of victory
We cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death,
“Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!”

Little Mary was happy gl P1040243 to hold the branch while I carried her, and to wave it around as we walked in the pleasant air, passing under wisteria blooms. Even outdoors on the porch, giant palm branches were decorating the pillars. Inside, green altar cloths were temporarily covering the purple, but later in the day they were removed. Tomorrow we enter Holy Week.

The fact of Lazarus’s being raised from the dead, and its reminder of Christ’s resurrection that we will be celebrating in just a few days, the experience of His grace in which we are clothed — all these realities will sustain us during the many services and the heart preparations of this week. The joy of the Lord will be our strength.

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Palms and Flowers

On this Palm Sunday, we were celebrating Christ’s entry into P1090482crpJerusalem. The church and grounds were all beautified by springtime and by the artistry of parishioners who arranged flowers and palm branches.

This year we even had some giant green fronds to soften the harsh lines of scaffolding that can’t be taken down for another couple of months. Last night those were being unloaded from a truck when I was leaving Matins.palms on truck 14

By the courtyard poppies and wisteria are blooming.wist & poppies Laz Sun 14

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My new god-daughter, baptized on Lazarus Saturday.

 

After liturgy this morning we waved our much smaller palm fronds in the air as we processed around the church singing, “Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death: Hosannah in the Highest! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD!”

 

 

 

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