Exactly one week before Pascha, we celebrate one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Holy Orthodox Church: The Feast of the Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem. Let us take a moment to think about Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and compare it to His greater triumph at the other end of that same week. When He entered Jerusalem, our Lord had to some degree, everything that many people want out of life: He had the acclaim and respect of others; He was well known; and people gave Him the very coats off of their backs to welcome Him as they would have welcomed a king. How interesting it is to note that in His humility, our Lord turned all of this attention on its head by riding into town on the back of an “unclean” donkey, all the while appearing (to some, at least) to be ready to free His people and set up His kingdom! Although He knew what lay ahead for Him, He came willingly to Jerusalem. He did not hesitate.
By the end of that same week, our Lord had been stripped of everything (literally) and was treated in a way that no person ever wants to (or should!) be treated. He was ignored, mocked, beaten, and then, finally, cruelly killed. Once again, He turned all of this on its head. This time, however, He “rode” into Hades on the “back” of a cross, and destroyed Death by His death, bringing life to the entire world, freeing us all from Death, and opening the doors to His Kingdom to all. And again, He did not hesitate! And our world – indeed, our very LIVES – will never be the same!
It is important that we help our children learn about this feast, because of what it conveys to us about Christ and His Kingdom. It is easier to ponder Christ’s kingship when we think about all of those people waving palm branches and laying down their coats to welcome Him as He rode by. The depth of His humility is evident when we learn that donkeys were at that time considered to be unclean, and yet He deliberately chose to ride one. The Triumphal Entry shows us that Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world. He could have had an amazing earthly kingdom, but He chose something infinitely better, the Kingdom of Heaven, and then did everything that He could to free us from our chains so that we can be part of it. But that’s a festal celebration for another day.
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
Here are resources and ideas that you can use to help your Sunday Church School students to learn about this feast:
Celebrate the Feast of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem by decorating your dining room table with this pop-up centerpiece: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/d5aa72ed369c7b1fc58ddd93ebde329a.pdf. Add some of the palms that you bring home from church, after the service, to add to the display.
“As Jesus begins His journey on the road to the Cross, it becomes apparent that most people don’t want the kind of salvation He brings. He doesn’t conform to their expectations. Today’s world doesn’t want Jesus’ kind of salvation either. Yet like those who spread their garments before the hooves of Christ’s donkey, we are called to shed our old selves and lay them in the path that Jesus takes through our lives. We can do no less than throw open the gates of our hearts. The Conqueror of Death—and everything that leads to it— is coming.” “Heaven Meets Earth; Celebrating Pascha and the Twelve Feasts,” p. 37, http://store.ancientfaith.com/heaven-meets-earth
Find a family lesson focusing on the Gospel reading for the Triumphal Entry here: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/files/lent/gospels/palmsunday. This lesson offers some information about the feast, as well as ideas of activities to do together as a family to continue learning about the feast.
The latest issue of “Little Falcons” Orthodox Christian children’s magazine is called “Palm Sunday.” It contains articles about the Feast; traditions from the different jurisdictions of the Church (such as palms vs. pussy willows; a bit about Lazarus Saturday in a Serbian church and Palm Sunday in an Antiochian one); a woman’s diary entry from fourth century Spain that explains how the feast was celebrated at that time; an excerpt from a book imagining what the Triumphal Entry was like from the donkey’s perspective; directions for folding palm crosses; and much more! Find out how you can get your own copy here: http://www.littlefalcons.net/
Before Holy Week begins, take some time to listen in on this very helpful webinar about preparing your family for Holy Week: https://youtu.be/lX3UyHAKMac
Create Learning Boxes for young children to investigate during Holy Week: http://www.sttheophanacademy.com/2011/04/revisiting-pascha-learning-boxes.html