By Milena Faustova
Orthodox believers are celebrating the feast of Palm Sunday which commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, an event which according to all four canonical Gospels took place more than 2,000 years ago.
The Gospels say that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem one week before his Resurrection. Father Dmitry Pershin believes, however, that there is more to this feast than recollections of biblical events.
“Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus knew what sufferings were in store for him. As he entered Jerusalem people covered his path with palm boughs to demonstrate their reverence for the one who was doomed to die on the cross. On Palm Sunday we should welcome Jesus to reside in our souls. We should meet Him in repentance and love. Our hearts should become the very “Jerusalem” in which He would live forever.”
Palm Sunday is an old tradition in Russia and in many other countries. Until the middle of the 18th century, Russian towns and villages held solemn processions which were headed by archpriests riding donkeys or horses. The animals were led by town administrators. In Moscow, the donkey carried the church primate and was led by the tsar.
Palm Sunday is known as Willow Sunday in Russia. Willow goes into blossom fairly early in northern latitudes. Archpriest Vadim Leonov comments.
“As Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, the celebrating people lay down palm branches in front of him. In old time, tsars were welcomed in this way. In those days, the people of Israel thought that Jesus Christ had descended on earth to restore the Kingdom of Israel and release people from Roman occupiers. The Sunday of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, which people celebrated through carpeting his path with palm branches, became known as Palm Sunday. In Russia, where the climate is unfavorable for palm, palm branches were substituted for willow boughs.”
On Palm Sunday this year, Russian believers will be able to worship a number of holy relics, including fragments of the Seamless Robe of Jesus and the Nail of the Cross, which will be brought for view at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
According to the accounts of the four Gospels, the Lord’s Robe went to one of the warriors by lot. Until the 17th century it was stored in the Patriarch Church in Mtskheta, the capital of the early Georgian Kingdom of Iberia. Later on, it had to be moved to the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin after Georgia was seized by Shah Abbas the Great. The Robe was then divided into several parts which were delivered to churches and monasteries in Russia and Ukraine. In the years of Soviet persecution of the Church, a fragment of the Lord’s Robe was put in a silver case and handed over to the Museums of the Moscow Kremlin. It was in November 2007 that the fragment was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Nail of the Cross was retrieved from the collections of the Museums of the Moscow Kremlin on June 29th 2008. Scriptures say that the True Cross along with the four nails was discovered by Empress Helena in 326-28. A number of copies of those nails were made, and since the craftsmen used the original material for making copies, the resulting nails were also revered as sacred.
The two relics will be available for worshipping in Moscow for a week before they set out for the Penza Diocese.