Saint Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) of New York, The New Confessor – Sermon on Palm Sunday.
Today we prayerfully and solemnly remember the Royal entrance of the King of Glory, the Lord Jesus Christ into His “royal capital,” the holy city of Jerusalem.
Noisy was the crowd of Judeans when Christ entered the city before the beginning of Passover. Millions flocked to Jerusalem during those days, and it was already overfilled with people when the ceremonious, royal greeting of the long-awaited Messiah, Savior of the world commenced.
Holy Evangelist John the Theologian notes in his Gospel that before the Lord entered Jerusalem, word of his miracle of the raising of Lazarus performed by Jesus Christ spread like wildfire among the people; news of this astounding miracle lifted the spirits of everyone who revered and loved the Savior. After this, as Holy Evangelist Luke tells us, everyone began joyfully praising God for the wondrous Signs they had seen over this time. It must be noted that the Apostles desired that their Teacher would come to Jerusalem to be glorified there, as an earthly king would be. They thought that this moment had arrived, that Christ enters Jerusalem with Royal glory specifically in order to assume His Throne and reign as king; and they joyously exclaimed: “Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.” The people’s exultation was so great that they lay their clothing on the path upon which the Savior traveled, cutting palm fronds and other greenery, blanketing the way for Him, following along, holding these fronds in their hands as symbols of triumph and celebration.
Great was the elation of the Apostles and the people. But this most holy Honoree of the celebration did not partake of this rejoicing; on the contrary, as Holy Evangelist Luke says, as they approached Jerusalem and the splendor of the Holy City was revealed to them, Christ the Savior, contrary to the celebration of all who surrounded Him, wept as He beheld the city and said: “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes! For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round about, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”
The Lord knew how fickle the people were, and how unstable is the mob. In His omniscience, He saw that a week would not pass as the cries “Hosanna to the Son of David” would change to “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” and that these dreaded words would be screamed by the very same people who greeted Him with elation. This filled His Most-Holy Soul with profound sadness. One thing was truly consoling and joyful for the Savior as he entered the Temple: the pure children’s voices, who from the pureness of their souls and their pure hearts exclaimed to Him: “Hosanna to the Son of David.” The Lord rejoiced at this, for this was the pure ebullience of children, and the children, being children, rejoiced with all their hearts and celebrated, without properly understanding what was happening, but expressing to Him their elation and love directly.
We now remember this and celebrate; but we also remember according to the words of the Church that this day is not only one of celebration but pre-celebratory. For if tomorrow is the day we call “Palm Sunday,” or the “Entrance of the Lord to Jerusalem,” the following Sunday is the Feast Day of Feast Days—the Holy Pascha of Christ, which every believing soul hopes to survive to see by God’s mercy and to greet this day with more celebration and joy.
And between these two great Holidays, between these two Sundays, is Passion Week, with its wealth of remembrances during divine services, words of prayer and sacramental acts. So let us try, beloved ones, to draw as much as we can from the riches of Passion Week. This is a special, grace-filled and sacred time in the church year. He who takes advantage of every opportunity during the days of Passion Week, especially in the final three days, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, will attend church as often as possible. He who wasn’t able to come to church before and only comes during these holy days will be astounded by the beauty of the prayers and the sacraments, and will berate himself top to bottom that he had neglected this before, and deprived himself of this spiritual bounty and edification. The Church offers these treasures to us now. Let us try to take advantage of them, and, sanctifying and edifying ourselves with the holy services of Passion Week, greet Holy Pascha as we should! Amen.
Originally published in Russian in: Propovedi i poucheniya Vysokopreosvyashchenneyshego mitropolita Filareta Pervoiyerarkha Russkoy Zarubezhnoy Tserkvi, Vol. I, New York 1981, pp. 142-143.