On April 21, 2019 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.
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 at the Divine Liturgy the Rector preached the following homily in English:
“Today is the great feast of the Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem. And today we came to the God’s temple holding the branches, following the example of those children who came out to greet the Savior and our Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. Commemorating that special event we may reflect upon the fact that first of all, children were those who greeted Christ.”
“Childhood is a special time in our life. Our brightest memories are usually about our childhood. Usually we remember all good things which took place when we were little. It happens because our soul was pure at that time. We also tend to remember the bitterest things which happened to us as little children. It also happens because our soul in childhood was not defiled by the sins of this world, and sinful passions had not yet build a poisonous nest in our heart. Therefore the Lord once during His preaching called a child and placing him before everyone said: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 18, 3).”
““Become as little children”. What did the Lord mean? He was talking about a purity in heart of a child and of an openness of human soul in childhood. He was talking about how a child looks at the world when he had not yet been exposed to lie and hypocrisy, when all his feelings are sincere.”
“But the Lord also said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5, 8). So, not just children but everyone who is sincere, could see God in his life. The grace of the Lord may grant everyone a spiritual sight, so he can be sincerely joyful and sincerely sorrowful.”
“Children were greeting Jesus Christ with joy. They held the palm and olive branches, placed them over His way and shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” They repeated the words they heard from the adults and perhaps did not even understanding those words. They did not understand them by their mind but their heart understood them. They greeted the Lord Jesus because Christ is true God who came into the world and who entered Jerusalem to suffer for the sins of the world.”
“The grown-ups also came out to greet Jesus. But most of they were doing it not because their hearts were filled with joy about God, but because they heard that Christ resurrected His friend Lazarus. They heard about the miracles of Christ, about His “signs”. They thought that the Messiah came who will establish a joyful earthly kingdom where everything will be good. They thought that there came a Liberator to free them from the foreign dominion and to renew an independent kingdom of Israel. But the Kingdom of Christ was not of this world. That is why they very easily, in a couple of days, turned away from Him and condemned Him to be crucified.”
“Comparing the adults’ and children’s perception of Christ, we may also compare how Christ is perceived by those who believe and those who don’t. For those who believe, through faith the mystery of God’s Kingdom is being revealed. Such is the Kingdom where miracles take place, good prevails over evil and justice reigns over. But others are not able to see that because their heart is either not pure enough or is too harsh. In the same way in Jerusalem, some joyfully welcomed the Savior but others did not rejoice about His coming. “There are no miracles”, they thought. They were members of the high society. They were thinking about important issues. They were thinking how to liberate Israel from the Roman rule. They were thinking how to trade with other countries. They were thinking about many things but failed to see what was the most important. And when Christ, the Conqueror of death, came to Jerusalem and children greeted Him, they looked upon that with disbelief and skepticism. They were indignant with those children and rebuked Christ because of them (Mt. 21, 15-16).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The world does not change much, and now some people go to the church to joyfully greet Christ and they ask that Jesus may enter into their lives as He once entered the city of Jerusalem. Yet others look at that and do not understand. They don’t rush to the temple and may even say, “Why do you go to the church? There are so many other important things to do” Some think of how to improve the political and social life, how to vote at the elections, how to make the economy better [ …. ]. And they may say to us, “Why do you spend time at the services, pray, bless yourself, kiss the icons? There is no miracles!””
“Dear brothers and sisters! It is very important for us to preserve that faith in miracles, to maintain that childlike perception of the great and supreme things in our life. It is important not to harden our soul, not to make it callous and not to become insensitive to the God’s miracles, to His Kingdom, as it happened to the adults in Jerusalem and how it happens with many people and in all the times.”
“Thus today we came to greet Christ who is coming to His sufferings. As we sing in the festal hymn, “Today the grace of the Holy Spirit had gathered us” and we, receiving the branches, as little children, pray to the Lord that also our hearts may be pure, so we may see the Lord Jesus Christ as our God and Savior. And we pray to Him that the spirit of godlessness, the spirit of unbelief may not penetrate our souls. As a sign of victory of Christ over death, we hold these branches which seemed to be dead in winter but behold, they became alive. Let us pray that our souls may bloom along with our Lord Jesus Christ to whom is due all glory for ages of ages!”
The choir beautifully performed festal hymns during preparation for Holy Communion and selected special melodies for some parts of the Liturgy.
Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar server performed the rite of glorification before the festal icon. Then Fr. Igor preached a short sermon in Russian explaining the ideas of his English homily. He also reminded the parishioners about our service schedule for the Holy Week and Pascha.