Icon of the Entrance into Jerusalem

The Entrance of Our Lord
into Jerusalem [Palm Sunday]

celebrated on the Sunday before Pascha

"The Grace of the Holy Spirit today has assembled us. Taking up Your cross we sing: Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!"

"By Your command, O loving Lord, You have raised Lazarus Your friend from death! His flesh had been given over to corruption! He was in the power of death four days! By this You have foretold Your Holy Resurrection for us! Today, You mount an untamed colt as Your chariot, foretelling the conversion of the Gentiles. Your beloved Israel offers You a hymn of praise from the mouths of innocent children, as they see You enter the holy city, O Christ, six days before the feast of Passover." (from the Vespers for Palm Sunday)

The crowd which acclaimed Jesus carried palms and branches. These branches were probably olive branches - the most common tree around Jerusalem. Palms and olives both have their symbolic meaning. The palm stands for victory and the olive for peace and anointing. So let us go before Jesus and pay homage to His power and to His tenderness, in offering our victories [which are in fact His victories] both over ourselves and over sin, and our inner peace [which is His peace].

From the first day of Holy Week, we must "receive" Jesus Christ, and accept that His will is sovereign over us. The meaning of Palm Sunday lies in this welcome given to the Christ who comes to us.

The crowd shouted: "Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!"

If we can say these words with complete sincerity and submission, if they mean that the impulse of our whole being goes toward the King, whom from henceforth we acknowledge, then in that instant we have turned away from our sins and have received Jesus Christ. May He be welcomed and blessed, He who comes to us.

About the Icon

Christ is the central figure, depicted seated upon a donkey. The Disciples are on the extreme left, and The Jews on the extreme right. The children are the miniature people climbing the tree and in front of the donkey, carrying palm branches. The city of Jerusalem is shown as the walled buildings on the right; the temple is symbolized by the dome. (Description from The Icon Book, by Boojamra, Essey, McLuckie & Matusiak.)

Kontakion (Tone 6)

Sitting on Your throne in heaven, carried on a foal on earth, O Christ God! Accept the praise of angels and songs of children who sing: Blessed is He that comes to recall Adam!

Troparion (Tone 1)

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion, You did confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!

Prayer at the Blessing of the Branches

O Lord our God, Who sits upon the Cherubim, You have reaffirmed Your power by sending Your Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to save the world through His cross, burial and resurrection. When He came into Jerusalem to suffer His voluntary passion, the people that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death took boughs of trees and branches of palms as signs of victory, thus foretelling His resurrection. Do You, Yourself, O Master, keep and preserve us who, in imitation of them, carry palms and branches in our hands. As we join the crowds and the children who sang Hosanna to You, may we, with hymns and spiritual songs, attain the life-giving resurrection of the third day.

Some Things to Do

Read the Scripture references. Discuss the setting of the feast and the significance of the people holding the branches.
If it is the practice in your parish, attend the Vigil Service on Saturday evening and receive the blessed palms, olive branches, sweet laurel, or pussy-willows.
Bring the blessed branches to Church on Sunday for Divine Liturgy.
Sing or read the Troparion at your meals on Palm Sunday.
Bring extra branches to a shut-in or relative who was unable to attend the services.
Arrange the branches behind an icon or cross in your home.

© 1999 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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