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"Another year within time" - Palm Sunday


"The Entry in Jerusalem" - Julia Stankova 2015

Father Vassilios Argyriadis

Palm Sunday today. The day takes its name from a despotic celebration, the triumphal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. We heard the evangelist John tell it to us in today's reading. But the passage we heard is directly connected to the Resurrection of Lazarus and yesterday's celebration. In fact, the resurrection of Lazarus and what we heard in today's gospel form a unity. And this unity is punctuated by some dominant themes-images: Christ is the one who is going to be handed over to the Jews and die - "on the day of my burial this will be fulfilled" , he says about the myrrh that Mary pours on His feet, the sister of Lazarus. Christ is the master of death and life ("for this reason the crowd raised up to him, because they heard this him believing the sign [the resurrection of Lazarus] » ). Christ is a king - "Hail, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel" , shouted the crowd as they welcomed Him into the holy city.

While Christ is on his way to the passion, his Kingdom is already here, his lordship over death, present and active. Whatever is to be, is already here. Our experts tell us that this is how the entire Gospel of John is: at the same time as the succession of events, the narration is paradoxically illuminated by the light of the Resurrection. The earthly Jesus is the Risen Christ. The glory of God is constantly present and the narrative is inserted in its time. For example, we heard today: "His disciples did not know these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written on him" . With such markings and figures earlier, but also with other intensions in the narration (more poetically allusive), John illuminates his Gospel with the light of the Resurrection. Whatever happens at the end is ever present from the beginning. Moreover, it is no coincidence that on the night of the Resurrection, the Gospel reading of the liturgy will not be some cut of the closing verses of John (close to the events), but the first-first verses of it.

But our hymnology itself seems to be unfolding with a temporal paradox: we heard it in the verse talking to us about what we celebrate today (the triumphal entry into Jerusalem), about what we celebrated yesterday (the Resurrection of Lazarus), but also for what we will celebrate in one week (the Passion, the Resurrection): "The common Resurrection, believing in Your Passion, God raised Lazarus Christ from the dead; whence we, as Children, the symbols of victory bearers, we help you, the Conqueror of death; He is in the highest, blessed is he who comes, in the name of the Lord". Christ the miracle worker and king, mortal and resurrected. Everything we celebrated and everything we will celebrate as if it is already here. The chain of succession of events breaks and "now" merges with "before" and "after". As if there are no days and years, hours or centuries. And all of us who have lived the Church since our childhood, know that in every celebration there is always a "today": "Today is born of the Virgin, the dragon that has all creation", we sing at Christmas. "Today nature is sanctified by the waters", we sing the Epiphany. "Today of our salvation the capital...", in the Evangelism. "Today he is hanging on a tree...", we will hear in a few days. All in one "today", in one now.

All this is not unheard of. But it's kind of paradoxical if you think about it. The operational year follows the footsteps of succession. One celebration follows another, as days follow one another, and as weeks, months and years do. But at the same time that this is happening, the Church always calls us to a "today", a today that overcomes all this circular repetition and breaks the bonds of time. Or better: it inserts into time, another time, an enduring present, an unwavering now. It is the time of grace, an eternal time, like the light of the Resurrection.


"Words...", one might say disparagingly. "What more does all this mean, beyond theological rhetoric?" Indeed, one can see it that way. But it is important to know that what Christ has invited us to is not just a future, a promise, a posthumous promise. It is something that is present here and now. Not beyond time, but within it. Not above things, but within them. We all live our lives in a constant cycle. We carry ourselves day by day, month by month. We measure ourselves by the years we leave behind. The problems, the sufferings, the difficulties, the diseases, are a permanent condition of the life of all of us. And we Christians are accused of exorcising all this with posthumous promises — "you may be tortured here, but after death you will enjoy...", that's what they accuse us of saying. And maybe that's how some of us think. But the Church stands witness to something else. Otherwise, there are other references. Every pain and every difficulty of this world is not only what it seems; it can also contain light. Illness and real Life, so completely different from each other, can coexist, because within the time of one, the time of the other can fit. And let the second renovate the first. That is why the Church speaks to us about the other time within our time. He is constantly inviting us to this interplay of time. And this other time is light, it is Life, it is unfailing joy.


"Words...", someone would say again. "Who lives all this?" The saints, we answer. We don't have to go far. The generation that met saints of our time lives today, Saint Porphyrios, Saint Paisius... One of them had more than ten rare diseases — in his last days he was a cancer patient and almost blind. The second lived with half a lung. And yet, we know—everyone who met them testifies to this (when they are not spent in endless miracles)—that their joy was indescribable, their love a radiant light. There was something brought from elsewhere about them. No, it wasn't just their words, or their actions. It was what they themselves were. Something else within the concrete and tangible. Another time within the time of their lives. And you perceived this not simply with your mind or your eyes, but also with some other sense that you also discover that you possess, beyond and behind the senses — another capacity. Their presence consumed you. When Saint Paisios smiled, he wasn't just smiling at you innocently. Innocence was smiling at you. When Saint Porphyrios spoke of the light of Christ, the Light itself shone within you. No, these are not "words". Our era experienced them, our contemporaries experienced them and they bear witness to them. And in their testimony we place our hope, we verify what the Church proclaims.

Holy Week opens tonight. It's a week like any other, of the same length. But in its greatness, another time symbolically fits, the time of the Kingdom of God, which is inaugurated today "after the end". Easter, the holiday that comes in a few days, we have said before that it means "passing" in Hebrew. Let's hope that God deserves us so that it becomes for all of us a passage from one year of our life to another. An opening to the light of Christ. A secret transition from succession, to the constant present; from "every day", to the eternal "today" of unchanging time.