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Palm Sunday, when jubilation meets tragedy

Palm Sunday - our ascent to the Golgotha

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For the Orthodox, the next few days stand out from all the others. Joy and tragedy go side by side. The cries "Hosanna" and "Crucify him" are almost indistinguishable.

Jubilation is everywhere. Throughout the city, people are waving palm branches and spreading their cloaks. Christ is walking past the ecstatic crowd to His imminent death. Today, they are holding palm branches, but tomorrow these same people will pick up rocks to hurl at him in their wrath. Their smiles will disappear. Their eyes will glow with evil, and blood will rush to their faces.

He preached to them the Kingdom of Heaven; they were more interested in their worldly pursuits. He proclaimed His Divine Love and projected it to them. They trampled on it without remorse. Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." He did not find His glory in the political hall of fame. He found it in His death.

Today's feast is gruelling and tragic. It precedes the Holy week, the most dramatic in the church year. We come out to glorify the Lord, and all He wants us to do is stand by Him and not walk away. He wants us to stay by the Cross and not seek refuge in the comfort of worldly life.

Yet He does not force His love upon us. He hopes that we will respond to it in freedom and inspiration. Love does not exist without freedom; it is always a two-way dynamic.

Our life in eternity depends on our hard work, willingness to sacrifice and full and sincere love for God and our neighbour. When selfishness and self-admiration fill our hearts, what can be more tragic? Fasting should help us open up to others and prepare ourselves for eternal life.

A disciple once asked his spiritual teacher, "How can I tell if I am alive, not dead?

The elder replied, "You are alive if you have not buried your heart in vanity, indifference, despair or boredom and if you can still cry and sense emotion. You know are not dead when you look at the stars and read in their pattern the word "love", most precious in our lives."

Every day of the Holy Week is like a step in our spiritual ascent. We cannot evade the Cross; we cannot bypass our Golgotha. But the Resurrection will be the prize, of which we are hopeful and certain.


April 07, 2023
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