On April 1, 2018 the Orthodox Church celebrated feast of the Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, also known as Palm Sunday. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed festal liturgical service in our parish.
Before 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 at the Divine Liturgy the Rector preached a homily in Russian.
In his homily Fr. Igor pointed out that many people in Jerusalem who came out to greet Jesus with the palm branches, believed that He was a Messiah who was going to restore the Kingdom of Israel and free those who believed in one and true God, the Jews, from the Roman dominion. These people became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah because they heard that He resurrected His friend Lazarus and performed other miracles. But their expectations were not spiritual. Perhaps only children of Jerusalem were sincere in their greetings; they were frankly rejoicing when they saw the Savior because the Holy Spirit opened this truth to their souls. They rejoiced that Christ has brought the true eternal Kingdom that will have no end and the true liberation, liberation from the power of sin over human souls.
“Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us”, we sing in a hymn of this feast. We are gathered together in the temple of God by the grace of the Holy Spirit. And like those children, we hold the branches in our hands. We greet Christ and ask Him to come into our lives. But let us ask ourselves, “Why are we greeting Him?” “Whom do we resemble?” Are we like those children who sincerely welcomed the coming of the Savior or are we like those people who desired to see in Christ a man who would grant earthly well-being, earthly joy and happiness?
Today’s holy day is telling us about a sad division of the people. Many of those who greeted Jesus today will soon turn away from Him. This crowd will soon be divided. But the Lord Himself reminded us saying, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10, 34). As we have already mentioned, Christianity is a religion of contradictions. On one hand, our Lord Jesus Christ came to redeem all of us and to call everybody to be saved but, on the other hand, He brought a division because everyone chooses whether to follow Christ or not. And after His Entry into Jerusalem people became divided.
Fr. Igor concluded his homily saying: “Dear brothers and sisters! Like the branches of the trees begin to bloom because of the sunlight, let us pray that we may begin to bloom spiritually under the grace of the Holy Spirit and that our Lord Jesus Christ who resurrected Lazarus, healed the sick, may resurrect and heal our souls – not only for the earthly life and its well-being, but rather for life eternal in His everlasting Kingdom which He brought us when He came to the holy city of Jerusalem to suffer and to rise there from the dead!”
The choir beautifully performed hymns of the feast during preparation for Holy Communion and selected special melodies for some parts of the Liturgy.
Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and altar servers performed the rite of glorification before the festal icon. Then Fr. Igor preached a short sermon in English explaining the ideas of his Russian homily. He also reminded the parishioners about our service schedule for the Holy Week and Pascha.
After the service parishioners and the Rector enjoyed delicious meals and interesting conversation during the coffee hour.