Augustine Sokolovski, doctor of theology, priest
To understand what exactly the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, celebrated on Palm Sunday, means, it is necessary to turn to the concept of the Event of Christ, which means everything that was said and done by our Lord Jesus Christ. For a correct perception of the essence of the Event of Christ, it is necessary to pay attention to the gradual development of the biblical mystery in history. The very existence of the biblical people is the History of the Testament. The biblical books speak of this, the prophets proclaim. It is revealed in the Bible as a story of man's unfaithfulness and God's faithfulness.
The covenant was accompanied by a promise. God promised man that the Covenant would be fulfilled. And this fulfillment of the Testament took place exclusively in the coming of the Messiah. Jesus of Nazareth is a servant of God, that is, His Servant and, at the same time, the King of Israel, proclaiming the news of the Coming Kingdom.
Throughout His preaching, and especially in His last days, Jesus clearly testified that He was destined to die on the Cross. But this death did not have the reverse side inherent in every human death since the time of Adam. The name of the "dark side of the force" is sin.
The departure of the Lord from the land of the living is a sacrifice in which the mystery of the fidelity of the Biblical Covenant was fulfilled once and for all. Jesus Himself spoke about this at the Last Supper, forever denoting the reality of His presence with the faithful in the Eucharist. “Taking bread, and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (see Luke 22:19).
Jesus fulfilled the Covenant, at the same time revealing in this world the truth that divine love can be received by man. The election, birth, path, word, and deed of Jesus of Nazareth became the fulfillment of the Covenant and the manifestation of genuine human religiosity - devotion and fidelity to the cause of God in the path of sacrificial service. In the light of the Bible Word, it is important to understand that Jesus was a truly religious man.
It was the will of God that the humility and humiliation that the Only Begotten Son accepted should be completely fulfilled. Those who followed the Lord were required to believe in Him as the One sent by God, to acknowledge that His words proclaimed the will of the Father. Healings and miracles performed by Him were called to show the salvation that had come. This salvation, according to the Bible, meant the acceptance of the rejected, the restoration of the destroyed, the reunification of the divided and the forgiveness of the condemned. The glory of Jesus before the Resurrection is evidence of the coming Kingdom.
The miracles and signs of Christ witnessed the approach of the Kingdom of God in power. But only the Resurrection of Christ made it possible for the apostolic circle to recognize in the deeds and words of the Risen One — God Himself, who was among them. Everything in Christ testified to His divinity, but this evidence could be understood and accepted only after the Resurrection. The New Testament Scriptures speak of Christ in the light of His Resurrection. The Epistles of Paul, the Catholic Epistles, the Book of Acts, the Gospels, and, of course, the Apocalypse were written after Pentecost and reflect the understanding of the New Testament history by the disciples precisely in this Paschal perspective. They look to Christ as the Risen and Glorified Lord. In modern language, this perception is called retrospection - the recollection of what was authentic but remained unrecognized. It was this easter retrospection that helped them understand the words: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
It is important to understand that the God of the Bible is not the immutable, omnipotent, impassive, omnipotent “god of philosophers and scientists,” as Pascal writes in his Memorial, but “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” The God of the Bible rejoices and mourns, accepts, and rejects, He, as it is said in the prayer of confession, “laments over our malices”. And He… chooses. In Christ Jesus the mystery of divine election was fulfilled. In the messianic biblical perspective, He is the only Chosen One who is able to fulfill the Covenant. He is the only Chosen One, who can become a human answer, that "infinite me" and "unconditional amen". He is the only One, who will bring the deliverance of history. “Here let human merits, which perished in Adam be silent, and let the reigning grace of God reign through Jesus Christ”. Saint Augustine of Hippo writes about this in the book “On the Predestination of the Saints” (15.31).
It is important to emphasize that the Church precisely celebrates the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. The earthly ministry of the Lord continued, according to the generally accepted opinion of interpreters, for about three years. According to the Gospel of Luke, the Lord Jesus went out to preach when he was about thirty years old (Luke 3:23). He preached, blessed, healed, cleansed lepers, cast out demons. The Lord brought sinners and outcasts closer to Himself. This happened because every human society was and is a society of division. Humanity is a community of the divided. In turn, the society of the biblical people of the time of Jesus Christ was divided to the highest degree. The sick, the sinners and the dead, were rejected, placed in "eternal quarantine". But the Lord Jesus gathered His people again.
In order for the saving ministry of the Lord Jesus to be finally completed, He needed to ascend to the throne. That is why He entered Jerusalem. Fulfilling the prophecies about the Messiah, He sat on a donkey - this is the only animal in the Scriptures that was able to see Angels and speak in human language. “The donkey, seeing the Angel of the Lord, lay down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled, and he began to beat the donkey with a stick. And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam: What have I done to you, that you are beating me for the third time already? (Numbers 22;27-28). The third time of blows on an innocent being, as a type of the resurrection on the third day, which the Scripture and the Faith of the Church speak of.
The Lord came as the Messiah, entered Jerusalem to sit on the Throne. For the proper celebration of the Entry of the Lord, any fatalism must be excluded from the perception of this event.
So, the representatives of the religious authorities of Israel tried to prevent the Entry of the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem. They tried to stop the Coming of the Messiah: “When the chief priests and scribes saw the miracles that He did, and the children exclaiming in the temple and saying: Hosanna to the Son of David! They were indignant and said to him, Do you hear what they say? Jesus says to them: yes! Have you never read: Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings You have arranged praise? (Matthew 21:15-16).
The Lord could reign over Israel and His Messiahship could be fulfilled. He could fulfill and, in fact, fulfilled all the hopes and promises placed on him. But in the beginning, contrary to the Will of God, which is the Holy Spirit, Jesus was rejected, and His Messiahship was suspended. As if suspended by the religious and political leaders of the People and the power of the Empire in the person of Pilate. For the contemporary princes of this world to Jesus really tried to stop the Messiahship of Christ.
The jubilation of the disciples, the spontaneous gesture of the common people, spreading their clothes on the path of the King - as if prefiguring the nakedness of the baptismal font. Let's remember the meaning of palm branches, completely forgotten in our days. Indeed, in those days, the palm branch in the hand was a symbol, a flag, a banner, and a sign of independence of the biblical people from the Roman Empire!
For the Church of the Resurrected Messiah, palm, willow, and any other branches in our hands on this day are a sign of our, in Christ, independence from ... the Kingdom of Death. “Blessed and holy is he who has a share in the resurrection: death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and Christ,” says the Apocalypse (Rev. 20:6).
The Lord entered Jerusalem and ascended His original Throne. Which became the Cross. It was on the Cross that the Lord united and embraced with His human, crucified, but even more so with almighty hands, the entire human race, and the entire Universe. From that moment, History has become an expectation. Therefore, the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, is also an eschatological, expected feast. Holiday of the Future. Beginning of Easter.