Our Metamorphosis in Holy Week.
Homily 404 – The Entrance into Jerusalem
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
April 12, 2020
Epistle: (247) – Philippians 4:4-9
Gospel: (41) – John 12:1-18
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Brothers and sisters, the Great Fast is finally over, and we begin the tumult which is Holy Week.
It has been and continues to be, a very strange time. Some, perhaps most, perceive the time as frightening, as seemingly devoid of value. A time when everything stops, and we just sit and wait.
Others experience this time quite differently. They embrace the days and reconnect with the more foundational issues of life, physical, emotional, and spiritual.
I’ve read articles recently that speak of the resurgence of some things that during my lifetime have moved from things we did ourselves, to things others do for us.
Things like sewing, baking, repairing, cutting hair.
Gathering for meals as a family. Interacting with one another – both family and friends – even from a distance.
Seeing, from a distance, our neighbors.
A month ago, two months ago – none of this was in our thoughts collectively. This has forced our world to become, in my view, significantly smaller.
Those things are neither good nor bad – they just are. But what we do with those things! That is what makes them good or bad.
If these things remind us of God and the importance of family, then good can and does result. If these things cause us anger or resentment because we aren’t able to fulfill our desires or whims, then they aren’t so good, perhaps.
What we experience in the Church this past week has revolved around the experience of Lazarus, a particular friend of our Lord.
On Tuesday, the hymns of the Church remind us that it was on that day that Lazarus died. We are led through an experience of grief, for the man whom Christ loved deeply.
Whom Christ wept for.
And we are reminded that we cannot and should not and must not question God on this. For the death of Lazarus, and any and all death is not God’s desire.
He did not permit death to become manifest in creation – He can use it for His and our good, but he did not cause it.
We did. Humanity did.
We tried, unsuccessfully it turns out, to assume the role and action of God Himself. We wrestled control away from the Creator and assumed it for ourselves, and in the process, introduced imperfection, corruption, sickness, death – all of these into the cosmos.
As Christ enters Jerusalem, having called Lazarus from the tomb, the crowd offers praise. I’m sure there were mixed motivations involved.
Some believed for sure that Christ, having raised Lazarus four days dead from the tomb, was entering Jerusalem to overthrow the Romans and establish a Jewish self-governing political kingdom, in the image of David and Saul and Solomon.
Some saw a miracle worker and were hoping for their own miracle. Some were perhaps just curious and caught up in the moment and the fervor of the crowd.
All of these involve, to a degree, a desire to control. There were expectations that existed for Christ entering Jerusalem.
Christ knows what He faces, though. Christ sees that the hosannas being shouted and the palms being placed on the path before Him, would in a heartbeat turn to shouts of Crucify Him! Crucify Him!
Christ knows He will be denied, and betrayed, and misunderstood, and ultimately die as the sacrifice of Passover prefigured.
And so, we, having the benefit of knowing the outcome, can take this most unique time and most unique circumstance, and participate fully in this week, and experience for ourselves what the Apostles and Disciples experienced.
Instead of being present while the services are read to us, we have an opportunity to find them for ourselves and read them for ourselves, and think about, contemplate, the meaning – emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
We can take the services of the Bridegroom Matins, and make sure our oil lamps are full, and our wicks trimmed, so that when the Light of Pascha emerges from that tomb, we are prepared to receive it, and to have it burning within us – uncreated light, the light of Tabor, the light of Transfiguration.
Because, beloved, while this week is about Christ, it is also about us. And if we are willing, we can make this entrance into Jerusalem with Christ, and partake of that most sacred and Holy Supper with Him in the upper room, and partake even of His suffering, and of His death.
Because, if we do these things – if we sacrifice ourselves, our desires, our wants, our longing for all things – for anything – even the good things:
Then Christ’s death becomes our death, and Christ’s resurrection becomes our Resurrection, and Christ’s light becomes our light.
And we will enter the joy of our Bridegroom as the spotless Bride, with our only want and only desire to be for Him.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!