Palm Sunday

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
We participate in the Events of our Salvation
Palm Sunday
12 April, 2009
Philippians 4:4-9 ; John 12:1-18

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

On this day, it is important for us to remember that we are not simply recalling events of the past. The very words that we sang yesterday, that we are singing today, and that we will sing throughout the coming week are telling us that we are participating in the Events of the Passion of our Saviour. We are not merely playing “let’s pretend that we are in Jerusalem”. While we are standing together today in the Temple of the Lord in the Divine Liturgy, we are in Jerusalem. We are together here with our Saviour. We, together with the people in Jerusalem and all the believers in the world today are singing : “Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” Time is telescoped. Time is no more, as it always is for us during the Divine Liturgy and during the services while we are in the Temple. There is no time. There is no passage of 2,000 years. We are here in Jerusalem.

It is important for us to pay attention to the joy of all who are welcoming our Saviour into the city of Jerusalem today. It is true that there were some people who had ulterior motives. They had some sort of political agenda. There are always some who fall into that temptation, but then there are always people who are tempted by some sort of political agenda. Nevertheless, the joy of this day in Jerusalem is not diminished at all merely because there are some people who have a political agenda. The joy is there because the prophecies are being fulfilled and the King is coming, riding on a colt. The King, the Anointed One, the Christ is coming to save us. This work of salvation is coming to a head in this week. His voluntary self-offering, the self-emptying expression of His freely-given love is being shown and worked out. The Lord does not just say things, as we human beings habitually do. We tend to say things that we think that people want to hear. The Lord does not do that. The Lord, who is Truth, speaks Truth straightly.

The Lord is entering Jerusalem for us. He is entering Jerusalem for our salvation. The joy which we are feeling, together with the jubilant crowd in Jerusalem, is that joy which is the foundation of the Christian Way. That is why the Apostle is saying to us today these very words : “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” The Orthodox Christian Way is the way of joy. It is the way of rejoicing, no matter what happens ; no matter what sorts of difficulties we face, no matter what pain, no matter what sorrow and even no matter what betrayal. We hear today the criticism of Judas about the expenditure of all this money on the expensive ointment for anointing the Saviour. There are always betrayers, too, in our lives. However, no matter what, our way has to be the way of rejoicing in our Saviour, who loves us, who shelters us and who protects us in all things, always.

Our Saviour is going to stretch out His arms on the Cross voluntarily. When He is stretching out His arms voluntarily on the Cross, at the same time, He is embracing you and me and the whole creation as He is bringing it back into harmony with God.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice”, says the Apostle to us. He also says : “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things”. When we go home, let us open the Scriptures to chapter four of the Epistle to the Philippians and look again at this list. When we see the word “meditate”, let us remember that this word “meditate” in the bygone days meant to repeat orally over and over again. It does not mean to sit there in solemn silence, look at those words, and think about them. “Meditating” in the old days meant to repeat those words over and over again with our mouth and our voice. The Apostle is telling us to do that. Why ? It is because every word on that list applies to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Everything that he says to us today refers to Jesus Christ and points us to Jesus Christ. If we repeat those words over and over again with the old understanding of “meditate”, and remember in our hearts that these words apply to Jesus Christ Himself, this meditation, this repetition, cannot but renew in our hearts the joy of our love for Jesus Christ. It cannot but refresh our confidence in our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

A long time ago, I went to a university whose motto is the very first phrase of that group of reflections of the Apostle Paul. In Latin, it begins : Quaecumque vera. A hundred years ago and more, when that university was founded, maybe someone still understood all the implications of this introductory phrase. However, as I have seen this alma mater university develop, they have certainly in the last part of these 100 years completely forgotten what is vera (truth), and Who is Truth. They have forgotten the meaning of “meditate” (even if they still teach Latin and Greek there). It is too bad that they have fallen into the intellectual world instead of remembering the wholeness and the unity that goes with the Christian life.

Let us ask the Lord to help us to meditate on those words and to remember our participation in the Events of the saving work of our Saviour, Jesus Christ today, and in the coming week, and in fact, every time that we are gathered here together. Let us ask the Lord to renew our love for Him, refresh our joy and multiply our confidence in Him. May the Lord enable us, with all joy and rejoicing always, to glorify the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.