Before we know it, we will be celebrating Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday. What a perfect introduction to Holy Week, and what a glorious way for our Lord to reassure his followers of His power that conquers death. It was, in a sense a “spoiler alert” of what was to happen in the days ahead!
Our children (and let’s face it, even some of us adults) can experience sensory overload with all of the beautiful hymns and processions of this special weekend, and Holy Week and Pascha that will follow. Let’s prepare for this by processing what we will experience when we attend all of the services.
Lazarus Saturday is the only time in the church year that the resurrectional Divine Liturgy is celebrated on a day other than Sunday. It makes sense: after all, on Lazarus Saturday, Christ raised His very dear friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45), a precursor of His own death and resurrection! This gives Orthodox Christians strength during the services of the week ahead of us.
Let us make it a priority to attend the Lazarus Saturday Divine Liturgy with our children. This points us all to the hope and joy of our Lord’s resurrection — and, one day, our own resurrection! It does mean attending Divine Liturgy two days in a row; Palm Sunday is the next day. Molly Sabourin blogs about why it’s worth meeting that challenge.
Also, before heading to church, listen to the song “Rejoice, O Bethany” as a family, making sure that our children understand the words as much as possible. It tells the story so well! Practice singing the song with this sheet music so our children can sing along.
Then, exactly one week before Pascha, we celebrate one of the twelve great feasts of the Holy Orthodox Church: Our Lord’s 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 the Holy City, our Lord had – to some degree – the fame, acclaim and respect of others. The people gave Him the very coats off 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 without hesitation.
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 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 sin and death by His death, bringing life to the entire world, 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! But that’s a festal celebration for another day.
For Palm Sunday, we can decorate our dining room tables with this pop-up centerpiece. Add some of the palms that you bring home from church, after the service, to add to the display.
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!