My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"THE KING OF THE ANGELS"
"Give praise with one accord, O people and nations: for the King of
the Angels rides now upon a foal, and He comes to smite His
enemies with the Cross in His Almighty power. Therefore, the
children sing to Him with palms in their hands: "GLORY BE ON
THEE, O Christ the Savior; glory be To Thee, alone art blessed."
(Matins Palm Sunday)
As with all of our divine services, there is a wealth of spiritual lessons and messages that are conveyed to the Orthodox Christain believer. Palm Sunday is rich in meaning and symbolism, which enhances our knowledge and strengthens our relationship with our Lord Christ. The Christian who is attentive to the Holy Scripture readings on this most holy day, the messages that are transmitted through the sacred hymns of the Church, and the holy liturgical processions that take place, all actions have a clear purpose; to inspire the faithful and to lead them before the "King of the Angels."
There are many spiritual lessons that are derived from the historical event of Jesus’ entrance into the Holy City of Jerusalem, commemorated by the Holy Church on Palm Sunday. One such lesson comes from the Divine lips of Our Savior, Who says to us, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, AND WE WILL COME TO HIM AND MAKE OUR HOME WITH HIM" (St. John 14:23).
What unites us to our Savior is agape. Agape is essential and so is adherence to His commandments. He says, "If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever. The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He DWELLS WITH YOU AND WILL BE IN YOU" (St. John 14:15-17). Also, Jesus "..Abide in Me, I in you…" (St. John15:4).
How can a believer contemplate this awesome and inconceivable communion with the Lord? "For God, the Holy Trinity, to make His home within us? To dwell within us and be in us? If God wills, it will happen. However, every Christian must be ready spiritually, must have kept His commandments, beend obedient to His word, and remained steadfast in his love for our Savior. Abiding in Christ our Lord is living out our own union with Him in faith, baptism, love, obedience, and the Divine Eucharist.
For the Lord entering the Holy City of Jerusalem is much different than entering our heart. As Godman, He knew what to expect from the different citizens of Jerusalem, as well as the religious and political leaders. Entering the heart of man requires an obedient and loving heart, a pure and contrite heart that bears no guile, and a heart whose "ground is good" and able to yield "a hundredfold."
For the Almighty God to make this offer to man, it can be done. It is incomprehensible for us to even consider that possibility. Just think how glorious and spiritually transforming that it would be to dwell in God and to be in His presence forever. I think of how Zacchaeus must have felt when Jesus "saw him and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus make haste and come down, for today I MUST STAY AT YOUR HOUSE." Furthermore, the joy that was felt by him when he heard the words of Christ: "TODAY SALVATION HAS COME TO THIS HOUSE…FOR THE SON of Man has come to SEEK AND TO SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST" (St. Luke 19:5-10).
Are we cognizent what happens when we receive the very Body and Blood of our Savior when we receive Holy Communion? Are we not receiving Christ Himself unto ourselves? Why does the celebrent priest invite the faithful and say: "Take eat; this is My Body, which is broken for you, FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. Drink of it all of you, this is My Blood of the New Testament, Which IS SHED FOR YOU AND FOR MANY, FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS." Then the invitation is extended to all the faithful who are spiritually prepared: "WITH THE FEAR OF GOD, WITH FAITH AND LOVE DRAW NEAR." On coming near to communicate the faithful Orthodox Christians say, "Behold, I approach for Holy Communion, O Creator, burn me not as I partake, For Thou art Fire which burns the UNWORTHY, Wherefore do Thou cleanse me from every stain of sin." Is this not the reason why we are in church? What is the purpose of being present at the Divine Liturgy if not to receive Christ into our hearts, into our dwelling place, and into our thoughts… and by His presence RECEIVE SALVATION? We absolutely hear His Divine words: "TODAY SALVATION HAS COME TO THIS HOUSE," THIS SOUL TO "SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST."
We must, as Orthodox Christians, understand the Divine acts of God are not simply "symbolic," but REAL! There is nothing symbolic about the Divine Euhcarist! It is indeed THE VERY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST! We are NOT Protestants who act out simply a symbolic act in memory of the Last Supper and distribute grape juice and a cracker. The AUTHENTIC MYSTICAL SUPPER OF CHRIST REVEALS THE TRUE NATURE OF THE DIVINE EUCHARIST WHICH HE HIMSELF INSTITUTED: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘TAKE, EAT THIS IS MY BODY.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘DRINK FROM IT, ALL OF YOU. FOR THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE NEW COVENANT, WHICH IS SHED FOR MANY FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS." (St. Mark 14:22-26; St. Luke 22:19-20; St. Matthew 26:25-28) The bread and wine WAS FIRST CONSECRATED BY JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF BEFORE GIVING IT TO HIS DISCIPLES. There is nothing symbolic at all about it! Here is Jesus Christ Himself and what He says: "Then Jesus said to them, ‘MOST ASSUREDLY, I SAY TO YOU, UNLESS YOU EAT THE FLESH OF THE SON OF MAN AND DRINK HIS BLOOD, YOU HAVE NO LIFE IN YOU. WHOEVER EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD HAS ETERANAL LIFE, AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP AT THE LAST DAY. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood ABIDES IN Me, and I IN HIM" (St. John 6:53-56). Saint John Chrysostom, in one of his homilies, teaches that we must not understand the sacrament carnally, that is, according to the laws of physical nature, but spiritually, perceiving a true but mystical presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
In the New Testament, those who receive Christ’s Body and Blood UNWORTHILY ARE SAID TO BRING CONDEMNATION UPON THEMSELVES. "But let a man EXAMINE HIMSELF and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For HE WHO EATS AND DRINKS IN AN UNWORTHY MANNER EATS AND DRINKS JUDGMENT TO HIMSELF, NOT DISCERNING THE LORD’S BODY. FOR THIS REASON, MANY ARE WEAK AND SICK AMONG YOU, AND SLEEP" (literally,"are dead"; (1 Corinthians 11:28-30). A MERE SYMBOL COULD HARDLY HAVE THE POWER TO CAUSE SICKNESS AND DEATH!
It is, therefore, advised by our Holy Church that the faithful prepare themselves spiritually through prayer, fasting, and especially through the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession. Concerning our sins, God’s Logos/Word gives a wonderful promise. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just TO FORGIVE US OUR SINS AND TO CLEANSE US FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS" (1 John 1:9). The faithful are TO BRING THEIR SINS TO GOD IN REPENTANCE AND RECEIVE CLEANSING AND FORGIVENESS.
Thus our Holy Orthodox Church has taught the faithful: If you know you have committed a specific sin, DO NOT HIDE IT, BUT CONFESS IT BEFORE COMING TO THE HOLY EUCHARIST. Saint Paul wrote: "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (1 Corinthians 11:28), and "If we judge ourselves, we would not be judged" (1 Corinthians 11:31).
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chyrsostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George