On April 5, on Palm Sunday we had a solemn celebration of the feast of the Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.
After the reading of the Hours the Rector blessed the pussy-willows and distributed them to the parishioners who were holding them during the service resembling the people of Jerusalem who greeted Jesus Christ with the olive and palm branches during His triumphal entry to the city.
Following the readings from the Scripture Fr. Igor preached a homily:
“There are different holy days in our Church calendar. Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. It is a tragic feast. It appears to be joyful and bright, it feels like a joyful occasion. And it was supposed to be. Today our Lord Jesus Christ entered the holy city of Jerusalem. The Messiah came to His capital city. The people greeted Him there, met Him with honor, paid Him homage. Jesus was greeted as a true king of Israel. One of the signs of such welcome was holding the palm and olive branches, the sign we are using to greet the Lord when we bless and pick up the pussy-willows. Despite that, this is a sad feast.”
“The tragedy of Palm Sunday lies in the fact that all this exciting welcome and all this triumphal entry into the city is based on a terrible misunderstanding. The Jews misunderstood Jesus. They expected Him to be a powerful political leader, an earthly ruler, a great liberator who would restore the kingdom of Israel, chase away the Romans and establish a perfect society on earth. Even His miracles were understood not as a manifestation of His divine power and nature, but as a proof of His earthly greatness. Our Lord resurrected Lazarus who had been dead for four days. Today’s Gospel reading mentions that this was the reason why people came to meet Him, “because they heard that He had done this sign” (Jn. 12, 18).””
“Our Lord Jesus Christ was the true Messiah and Savior of the world. This is exactly why He was not an earthly leader. He was the Son of God who became the Son of Man in order to make us the sons of God. Somehow the Jewish leaders did not grasp it. Jesus disappointed them as an earthly king, so they crucified Him. Their excitement and joy of welcoming Him had changed to hatred and desire to put Him to death. The crowd who cried out, “Hosanna!” cried “Crucify Him!” This is why this feast is so tragic. It shows us how shallow, how superficial our human understanding can be. We may easily prefer unimportant things over God Himself. The Jews rejected Jesus, rejected God when He could not satisfy their earthly plans. More than that, they even killed Him.”
“In response to that Jesus said: “Behold, your house is left to you desolate” (Mt. 23, 38). That what happens when God is rejected. Our life becomes desolate; it becomes empty. For there is only one thing which may turn the wilderness of our life into a flowering garden, which would make our life complete, which would make the human society efficient – this one thing is the presence of the Living God who gives an eternal sense to all which is temporary. This is the same Living God who gives His life-giving force to the nature, so every spring we observe with awe and excitement how the branches of the trees become blooming and alive again, how the first flowers emerge after the cold winter. The pussy-willows we are holding today are also the sign of the Living God present in the nature.”
““Your house is left desolate”… The people were looking for earthly freedom, earthly victory, earthly power. They never found it, or if they did, it never lasted long. Only dust and ashes or the tombs were left after those who were looking for these things. Our Lord Jesus, on the contrary, did not use the power to rule, but His kingdom will have no end. He rose from the grave and lives forever. He offers us life everlasting if we allow Him to fill our lives.”
“This is why today’s feast is so tragic. A great number of people is going to reject their true God. A small number is going to follow Him and receive what He had promised them: life, and life to the fullest. A great misunderstanding happened. For one kind of people their house becomes empty, yet others enter into the house of God and themselves become the temple of the Holy Spirit, the house of life.”
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and altar servers came before the stand in the middle of the church and performed the rite of glorification before the festal image singing the troparia, kontakion and the magnification of the feast.
The Rector preached a short sermon in Russian explaining the ideas of his English homily. He also congratulated parishioners on the occasion of the holy day. He also reminded them that we are beginning Passion Week, a very important and spiritually intense time, and called to attend the services celebrated during that week.
After the service parishioners and the Rector enjoyed delicious meals and interesting conversation during the coffee hour.