Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Liturgical Explanation of Holy Week-Palm Sunday

The Saturday of Lazarus from the liturgical point of view is the pre-feast of Palm Sunday — the Entrance of Our lord into Jerusalem. Both feasts have a common theme: triumph and victory. Saturday reveals the Enemy, which is Death; Palm Sunday announces the meaning of victory as the triumph of the Kingdom of God, as the acceptance by the world as the only King, Jesus Christ. In the life of Jesus the solemn entrance in the Holy City was the only visible triumph. Up to that day He consistently rejected all attempts to glorify Him. But six days before the Passover, He not only accepted to be glorified, He Himself provoked and arranged this glorification. By doing what the prophet Zacharias announced: “behold, Thy King cometh unto thee... lowly and riding an ass...” (ZECHARIUS 9:9). He made it clear that He wanted to be acclaimed as the Messiah, the King and the Redeemer of Israel. And the Gospel narratives stress all these messianic features: the Palms and Hosanna, the acclamation of Jesus as the Son of David and the King of Israel. The history of Israel is now coming to its end; such is the meaning of this event. For the purpose of that history was to announce and to prepare for the kingdom of God, the advent of the Messiah. And now it is fulfilled. For the King enters His Holy City and in Him all prophecies, all expectations find their fulfillment. He inaugurates His Kingdom.
First it is our confession of Christ as our King and Lord. We forget so often that the Kingdom of God has already been inaugurated and that on the day of our baptism we were made citizens of it, have promised to put our loyalty to it above all other loyalties. We must always remember that for a few hours Christ was indeed King on earth, in this world of ours. For a few hours only and in one city. But as in Lazarus we have recognized the image of each man, in this one city we acknowledge the mystical center of the world and indeed of the whole creation. For such is the Biblical meaning of Jerusalem. Therefore, the Kingdom inaugurated in Jerusalem is an universal Kingdom embracing in its perspective all men and the totality of creation.
And when the most solemn moment of our Liturgical celebration we receive from the priest a palm branch, we renew our oath to our King, we confess His Kingdom as the ultimate meaning and content of our life.
The branches in our hands signify our willingness to follow Him on this sacrificial way, our acceptance of sacrifice and self-denial as the only royal way to the Kingdom.
And finally these branches, this celebration, proclaim our faith in the final victory of Christ. His Kingdom is yet hidden and the world ignores it. It lives it as if the decisive event had not taken place, as if God had not died on the Cross and Man in Him was not risen from the dead. But we, Christians, believe in the coming of the Kingdom in which God will be all in all and Christ the only King.
In our Liturgical celebrations we remember events of the past. But the whole meaning and power of the Liturgy is that it transforms remembrance into reality. On Palm Sunday this reality is our own involvement in, our responsibility to, the Kingdom of God. Christ does not enter into Jerusalem anymore; He did it once for all. And He does not need and “symbols”, for He did not die on the Cross that we may eternally “symbolize” His life. He wants from us a real acceptance of the Kingdom which He brought to us...
And if we are not ready to stand by the solemn oath, which we renew every year on Palm Sunday, if we do not mean to make the Kingdom of God the measure of our whole life, meaningless is our whole life, meaningless is our commemoration and in vain the branches we take home form the church.

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