The Significance of Palms

While recovering from laryngitis and with snow falling outside, Fr. Matthew Howell preaches about the feast of the Entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. Using Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s text “A Liturgical Explanation of Holy Week” as a basis, he explains that Christ enters Jerusalem as a king but with a kingdom that has completely inverted the paradigm of what a kingdom should be, presenting radically different images of kingship and servanthood than we expect. The palms that we hold, therefore, are symbols of our renewal of our oath to Christ as king of every aspect of our lives, and our willingness to follow Jesus to His kingdom through sacrifice and self-denial. Encouragement is given to make the palms more than merely hollow symbols or nice decorations for our homes or prayer corners, but to make them true signs of our wholehearted devotion to God throughout our lives.  Fr. Matthew also talks about how the people who received Jesus threw their clothes before Him, literally giving him the shirt off their back while not holding back their devotion or loyalty. The probing question is: how many things in our own lives do we hold back from God while nominally acknowledging Him as our Lord? May God give us the strength to follow him to the cross without holding back.

Philippians 4:4-9

BRETHREN, rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.

John 12:1-18

Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazaros was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazaros was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazaros, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazaros also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it; as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazaros out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.