After serving Palm Sunday liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias reiterated that the Church continues to reject categorically any involvement in politics. He emphasised the Church’s pastoral role.
Orthodox Christians around the world celebrated one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Church Year, the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, commonly called Palm Sunday. Russian liturgical books call it Flowery Sunday, but the people call it Palm Sunday. The holiday ends the forty days of the Easter Lent and starts Holy Week, which culminates in Easter Sunday. This year, Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on 5 May. On this day, believers come to church with pussy-willow branches in memory of how the people of Jerusalem met Jesus Christ. Then, Holy Week follows the theme of the Passion of the Saviour, retelling the story of suffering and death on the cross of Jesus Christ.
Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev, the First Hierarch of the Church of Moscow and all the Russias, served liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. In the centre of the temple, exposed for the veneration of the believers, were a particle of the Lord’s Robe and a Nail from the Holy Cross. During the coming week, they’ll be in the centre of the cathedral, afterwards, they’ll return to their usual place in the right choir.
Until recently, these holy objects were in the Moscow Kremlin. They came to Russia in the 17th century, exposed for veneration at the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin once a year. Empress St Elena discovered the Life-giving Cross of the Lord in the 4th century, the mother of Emperor St Constantine the Great, Equal-to-the-Apostles (Greek: ἰσαπoστολος: isapostolos Latin: aequalis apostolis Russian: равноапостольный: ravnoapostolny). In addition, four nails from the Saviour’s crucifixion were found with the Cross. According to the Gospel narrative, the soldiers cast lots for the Robe of the Lord, rather than dividing it. Before the 17th century, this piece of the robe was in the cathedral of Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia. After Shahanshah ‘Abbās the Great of the Safavid Empire captured Georgia in 1617, he took this relic. In 1624, he offered it to Tsar Mikhail Romanov, who brought it to Moscow and placed it in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin.
The Orthodox Church celebrates the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem on the last Sunday before Easter. This is one of the 12 Great Feasts. People call it Palm Sunday because churches bless pussy-willow branches and palms on this day after liturgy. Yet, even though this day is called Вайи (Vay, branches of the date palm, which the people of Jerusalem used to welcome Jesus), Holy Week is also known as Flowery (Цветоносия, Цветной) Week. In 2013, Orthodox celebrated the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem on 28 April.
It’s a single-day holidays and, unlike other feasts, it doesn’t have a week of feasting; it’s surrounded by strict fast days. On the one side, we have the Easter Lent proper; on the other, we have Holy Week (a week devoted to the Passion and death on the cross of Jesus Christ). Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday serve as a transition from Lent to Holy Week itself. The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem was one of the main events of the last days of the earthly life of Jesus Christ, described by all four Evangelists, which they considered as a symbol of the future reign of God. On that, Jesus rode on a young donkey as He entered Jerusalem, and the whole city came out to meet him. As the Gospel tells us, the people took off their cloaks and threw them on the road on which Jesus rode. They littered His path with palm branches, and greeted Him with shouts of “Hosanna!” That was usually only reserved for acclamations to the king. The reason for such jubilation was His miracle on the day before, where Jesus raised Lazarus, thus, proving his status as the Son of God.
Christians celebrated this festival from the 3rd century onwards; in Russia, it came with the Baptism of Rus in the 10th century. In the 16th and 17th centuries, in Moscow, the celebration of this feat was especially solemn. Before the Liturgy at the Assumption Cathedral, a procession wended its way through the streets, passing through the Spassky Gate of the Moscow Kremlin. Firstly, everyone went to the Church of the Intercession on the Moat (better known today as St Basil Cathedral) for prayers on Calvary. In the procession, along with the banners and icons, believers carried pussy-willow branches and flowers. In the midst of it all, the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias rode on a donkey, which the tsar himself led by the bridle. Upon returning to the Assumption Cathedral, the blessed pussy-willow branches were passed out as gifts to the believers. At the end of the 17th century, this custom disappeared.
Palm Sunday services begin on Saturday evening. The all-Night Vigil on the evening before the feast is particularly solemn, after which the blessing of pussy-willow branches takes place (the pussy-willow symbolises the victory of life over death… the Resurrection of the Lord). After the reading of the Gospel, the clergy incense the pussy-willows, recite prayers, and sprinkle holy water on the branches. Usually, the clergy repeat the sprinkling of the branches on the very day of the holiday, after the liturgy. Sanctified branches are given to the believers during the anointing with oil during the service. The believers stand with branches and candles during the reading of the festal canon, thereby symbolising the people of ancient Judea that came out to meet Jesus Christ at His Entrance into Jerusalem. After this, the believers keep the candles as a symbol of the greatness and grace of the triumph of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as their flickering light represents the resurrection to eternal life.
When they return home, believers take the pussy-willows blessed on this day and place them behind the corner of one of their icons, where they stay until next year’s Palm Sunday, when they replace it with a fresh branch. The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is used on this day, and the liturgical texts meditate on the meaning of the events of the resurrection of Lazarus (Lazarus Saturday), and the solemn entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the eve of His suffering on the Cross. The clergy wear green vestments on the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem, as green is a symbol of the rebirth of life, and it brings to mind the green palm fronds that the people of Jerusalem welcomed Christ with.
On this day, even according to the strictest reading of the rules, believers can eat fish and drink wine. Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, or Great Week, the week preceding Easter, dedicated to retelling the Passion of Jesus Christ. On Sunday night, the service commemorates the Last Supper, His Trial, His Passion, the Crucifixion, and the Burial of Jesus Christ.
28 April 2013
Voice of Russia World Service
His Holiness makes it clear… the Church is above partisan politics. Therefore, the American Orthodox who’re trying to ally the Church with the Republican Party and the Pro-Life Movement (these are mixed together so incestuously that it’s impossible to separate them) are going against the Received Truth taught by the Church of Christ. Christ has nothing in common with greed, favouritism to the rich, regressive taxation on ordinary folks, warmongering in foreign parts, drone attacks on civilians, hurting the most-vulnerable amongst us, the promiscuous use of the death penalty (as one sees in Hard Right strongholds such as Texas), and “gun rights“… indeed, quite the opposite. However, don’t argue with such people… they’re invincibly-incorrigible. Oppose them… for that’s what the Lord Christ commands. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God, not Blessed are the warmongers, for they fatten the boodle bags of the oligarchs…
Remember, the Church says, the love of money is the root of all evil… the Republican Party says, Greed is Good… I think that one of these things is not like the other…