Fr. Gabriel’s Palm Sunday Divine Liturgy, 2019
Glory be to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!
That greeting especially rings true today, because not only are those in Jerusalem and Bethany offering up Glory to God, but the entire Orthodox world shouts with joy as our Lord makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem…and more importantly, He makes a glorious entry into our hearts!
This morning, with our palms and pussy willows held high, we mystically stand in the midst of Jerusalem, being surrounded by the Children who have gathered and are dancing in the streets. Their joy has become our joy, as the Messiah has finally come this week to fulfill all of the prophecies that have been spoken about Him since the beginning of Time!
Yesterday Morning at Lazarus Saturday Divine Liturgy, we were reminded and overjoyed at the news that mankind no longer has to live in the shadow of death. No longer do we have to live a life with no hope for the future! No more do we have to fear what will happen to us after we close our eyes in eternal rest! The fear of death has been destroyed, and with the rest of the world, we give Glory to God for His Love and Compassion towards His creation.
Beloved in Christ, how blessed are we to know, that the brightness of Palm Sunday is but a mere shadow, when compared to the Life-Giving Joy that is to come. After Divine Liturgy today, the world goes from smiles and blessings, to witnessing the Greatest Evil perpetrated in the history of the human race. The Just One, who today rides on a donkey into Jerusalem with loud shouts of joy, will very soon be falsely accused by immoral priests. The source of all life, who brought His friend Lazarus back from the dead, will soon be accused by a corrupt court. He who “hung the earth upon the waters” will be considered immoral and outside of normal society.
On Good Friday, the greatest betrayal and atrocity…the greatest Human Evil… will become manifest as mankind takes the God of all…the One who humbled Himself out of love for us…and nails Him to the cross. We will weep with His Mother, as our Lord is taken off of the Cross, and placed in a tomb here in the center of the Church. After the dust has settled, after we spend 3 days weeping in front of His tomb, we will experience the Greatest Triumph the World has ever known, as we shout together that “Christ is Risen”! He has triumphed, and Glory now reigns forever!
When we take a step back and look at Holy Week, we see a reoccurring theme that has manifested itself in our own day and age. Glory, no matter how much evil is brought into its midst…always Triumphs. We don’t need to look far to see proof of this reality! Two years ago, on Palm Sunday, as joy was reigning through a Coptic Church in Egypt, we watched in horror as a suicide bomber brought death and unbelievable sorrow which shook the Christian World. The images and the stories were enough to drag someone down to their lowest low…and yet, despite the evil…despite all of the threats against the lives of the Christians who were living there…Holy Week and Pascha that year had record attendance in Egypt. On Pascha Night, they shouted with loud shouts of Joy, that despite the evil that was brought against them…Glory Triumphs!
This past week, after the Palm Sunday of those who celebrate in the West, the world witnessed the tragedy of one of the Oldest Catholic Churches in the world smoldering in the midst of Paris. Notre Dame, that beautiful Cathedral that holds so much history, and is home to incredible relics (including the crown of thorns that Christ wore on His way to Golgotha), was seen burning to the Ground. Anyone who followed this tragedy on the news or on the internet saw the evil come out of the woodwork. Numerous comments from our brothers and sisters who lead lives shrouded in the midst of darkness, jeering at the weeping Parisians, and asking the same question that the Jews asked when they saw Christ on the Cross: “Where is Your God now?”
It was only a short time after, that we began to see the answer to that very question, as footage began to come out of the thousands of faithful throughout the entire city of Paris, with the cathedral burning to the ground, singing with incredible beautify “Ave Maria”, and asking our Mother to protect not just the building of the Cathedral…but to protect the Living Body of the Church.
Our Lord, while He was still walking amidst the world…said these prophetic words which still reign true today: “In the world, you will have tribulation…but be of good cheer…I am overcome the world”.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we will see all of this this and more, in a very real way this week. Today, the Joys of Jerusalem reign. Tonight, the lights go out, and we begin our journey with Christ as He is led to Golgotha. After His crucifixion, the world will shake their heads, cast lots for His possessions, and ask that question that we hear even today: “Where is your God now…if He was all powerful…let Him come down from the Cross.”
But despite the wickedness, despite the hate, despite the hardships, brothers and sisters, take heart, and be filled with a sure hope in the joythat is to come! Later on this week, we will once again see Christ Triumph, as we gather together on Pascha night, to celebrate the incredible reality, that He has overcome the world…and Christ is Risen!