ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM
DID YOU KNOW?
Lazarus Saturday and the Entry into Jerusalem are the opening to Holy Week. The same Tropar unites both feasts. The mystical link to the resurrection of Christ himself, it is like prophecy in action.
On Friday evening (the Friday of the sixth week of the Great Fast), the 40 days of the Great Fast come to an end. The following day (Lazarus Saturday) is the first day of the Great and Holy Week. On this day we commemorate Jesus raising his friend, Lazarus, from the dead. Lazarus Saturday is a paschal celebration, and is a preview of the Resurrection that we will celebrate one week later. At the Liturgy for this day, Christ is glorified as the Resurrection and the Life, and the baptismal verse “All you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” replaces the Thrice Holy Hymn. By raising Lazarus, Christ has confirmed that we all will one day be resurrected.
On Willow or Palm Sunday we recall the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem before His passion. This day is considered one of the twelve Major Feasts of the liturgical year in the Byzantine Rite. It is always celebrated on the Sunday before Easter and includes the blessing of willow branches.
The blessing of branches usually takes place before or after the Divine Liturgy. The blessed branches are then distributed to the faithful as they come for anointing after the Liturgy. It is not uncommon to see Ukrainians striking one another on the shoulder on Willow Sunday with the willow branch and reciting the verse: “It is not I but the willow branch which strikes you to remind you that in seven days in the Great Day!”
Depending on the country or region, a variety of branches (palms, willows, flowers) are blessed for this celebration. Pussy willows seem to express well the liturgical symbolism of Palm Sunday. During the winter the willow tree seems to be dead. Yet, with the coming of spring, it sprouts and gives a sign of life. The willow branches bring to mind the wood of the Tree of the Cross, while the buds, a sign of new life, remind us of our own glorious resurrection. The blessed branches should be carried home as a sacramental, as a visible symbol of Christ’s presence. They should be entwined on a crucifix or used to decorate as icon. They serve as a “sign of salvation,” and a “pledge of protection and blessing” during the coming year as invoked by the second Prayer of Blessing. In some regions they place these branches into the hands of the deceased making them joyously ready to meet Jesus on the day of Resurrection. Let us then “come with branches and praise Christ the Lord!” (From Matins of Palm Sunday). “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! (Mt. 21:9)
¨ Our focus is on Christ, seated sideways on the donkey. The icon portrays His voluntary passion and death. It is an image of the installation of the King of Glory in His Kingdom.
¨ The disciples follow Him and the crowd meets Jesus at the Jerusalem gate.
¨ Traditionally, children play a prominent role in the representation of the Entry into Jerusalem. Though the Gospels do not specify the children’s presence, the Church sees in them the very embodiment of the Biblical reference: “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise.” (Psalm 8: 3)
¨ The Mount of Olives reminds us of other “mountain top” experiences of divine revelations at Sinai, Horeb or Tabor. The tree with children gathering palms reminds us about the oak of Mamre and the tree of Life. The city is reminiscent of the house of Abraham.
¨ Palms are the symbol of joy and feasting. The Jews used them to greet important people.
Come then; let us run with him as he presses on to his passion. Let us imitate those who have gone out to meet him, not scattering olive branches or palms in his path, but spreading ourselves before him as best we can, with humility of soul and upright purpose. So may we welcome the Word as he comes, so may God who cannot be contained within any bounds, be contained within us…
(Address of St. Andrew of Crete (c. 660 – 740)
WHAT CAN I DO IN MY CLASSROOM OR AT HOME?
Attend Church on Sunday and take home a few branches of the blessed Pussy Willows. Place them in your bedrooms and icon corner.
Attend Services during Holy Week and Easter.
Place the icon of the Entry into Jerusalem in the icon corner.
Explain the symbolism of the icon.
The main biblical readings for the entry into Jerusalem are:
At Great Vespers: Genesis 49: 1-2, 8-12; Zephaniah 3: 14-19; Zechariah 9: 9-15.
At Matins: Matthew 21: 1-11, 15-17.
At the Divine Liturgy: Philippians 4: 4-9; John 12: 1-18.
DID YOU KNOW?
This Sunday may be called “Flower or Blossom Sunday,” or “Flower- or Blossom bearing Sunday. Our people may call this Sunday “Pussy-willow” Sunday, “Willow Sunday” or “Sunday of the Willow”. As there are no palms or olive trees growing in this country, we have a custom of using willow branches, a tree that is the first to blossom in the spring.
In the prayer for blessings of palms (from our Trebnyk (Euchologion)), the willow branch is referred to as the symbol of the resurrection.
Other customs were practiced, for example, in Eastern Ukraine people along with the willow branch, received a small candle as a symbol of the resurrection.
Also, as people were leaving the church they would lightly strike one another on the shoulder with the willow branch, saying “It is not I who strike you, but it is the willow branch, within a week we shall celebrate Easter.” This became a reminder that Easter was drawing near.
This feast has neither a pre-feast nor a post-feast because it occurs during the period of fast.