In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today the Maker of the Universe enters Jerusalem. He is seated not on a white stallion with a 100,000 strong army to escort Him like the King of Babylon. He is seated on a young ass, the lowest of creatures, and escorted by street children like the King of Jerusalem. For He is not the King of Babylon, the King of War and Power and Pride and Riches, He is the King of Jerusalem, the King of Peace and Humility. And this is only right, for the name ‘Jerusalem’ means ‘the City of Peace’; Christ alone, the King of Peace, is therefore its rightful King.
Children greet Him with palms, the symbols of victory, and they cry ‘Hosanna’, meaning ‘Save, we pray’. Their cry and their deed are greater than they know, for in their innocence they speak and do truth, for Christ alone saves us, if we pray to Him; and the palm branches are indeed tokens of victory, for Victory comes through the Tree of the Cross.
This is not just an historic event, but an event that can be repeated at every communion. For whenever we seek peace and humility as if seated on an ass, as innocent as children crying ‘Save, we pray’, then Christ enters our souls and makes them into Jerusalems within us.
However, we know that in Jerusalem there were not only children, ‘babes and sucklings’, who greeted Him, there were also others, Scribes and Pharisees who, as the Gospels say, ‘were displeased’. They are those who wanted a worldly leader, a man of violence, a rival to the Romans, and they will lead Christ to Golgotha, preferring an unrepentant thief to the Son of God. Within a few days our Lord will suffer, because He is innocent and all the innocent suffering of the world, of which we have seen so much in our own days, is taken up in Him.
The division between, on the one hand, babes and sucklings and, on the other hand, the worldly Scribes and Pharisees is a division which is repeated through time and space, and all of us have at some time or another been on both sides. For whenever we sin we are on the side of the Scribes and Pharisees, and whenever we are innocent, we are on the side of the babes and sucklings. But whose side are we on today and whose side will we be on this coming week?
For in this coming Great and Holy Week, Passion Week, the Church calls us to follow Christ. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we begin to relive the dramatic events in Jerusalem of this Week. On Thursday morning we come to the celebration of the Last Supper, which was and is the First Liturgy. On Thursday evening we have the beautiful Service of the Twelve Gospels when the Church tell us all the details of Christ’s betrayal, of Judas, of Christ’s trial, of Pilate, of Christ’s scourging and Crucifixion. On Friday afternoon Christ is taken down from the Cross and on Friday evening He is buried and we shall sing together the Lamentations around His Tomb. On Saturday morning, we shall witness the first Resurrection Liturgy with the changing of vestments from violet into white and then on Saturday at midnight Christ will make clear His Resurrection. This by tradition is the moment when Christ returns to earth and we feel His presence amongst us most clearly.
How can we not come to these services and yet still call ourselves Orthodox? How can we not follow Christ through all the events of this Great Week which changed the history of the whole world? Let us be as babes and sucklings, let us put away our worldly calculations and free ourselves from our laziness, let us be with the family of God, with the Mother of God and St John, and follow Christ to the Cross, so that then we can follow Him to His Resurrection, to Victory and Triumph, and so be resurrected in spirit together with Him.