- Fr. Athanasius Oweis
Let Christ Enter Deeper - April 17th 2022
Homily on April 17th 2022
Link to Gospel Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. Jesus said, "Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me." When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" And Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it; as it is written, "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!" His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
The word Hosanna is made of three syllables Ho-Sa(Shaa)-Na: Ho is from Yahweh God, Sa (Shaa): Save, Na is us.
Hosea is the Saving of God,
Isiah (A-Shaa-Yah) Yahweh is Salvation,
Joshua/Jesus (Yah-Shoo) God Saves. We read it first in Psalm 117: vs 25, 26 Lord Save us now. This is the Old Testament Translation. The prophecy of Christ Entry into Jerusalem is in Zacharia 9:9.
The New Testament Translation means: We are rejoicing to the most, and giving our highest praises to God for His salvation. In Matthew 21 it mentions that both the people who were before Christ and those who are after him were shouting Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the lord. The fathers see the people who put the branches/palms before him as those who prepared the way for Christ to come, who are all the prophets before Christ in the OT ending by St. John the Baptist. We are the people of the New Testament who are coming after Christ. All of us are singing the same song. Hosanna in the Highest.
This Glorious Entry was celebrated by thousands and thousands of people who spanned the distance from Bethany (Elizaria) to Jerusalem over 7 miles (11 Km) distance. If you think that there is a lot of people at a US president inauguration from the Lincoln memorial to the US Capitol, what happened then was many times multiple. The scene is unimaginably glorious. This was the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. It wasn’t fancy from the outside, fancy is easy, fancy can be bought, fancy can be replicated and topped. What this event was, it was genuine, from the bottom of the heart of the people. Nobody told these people to come out, no body coerced them, and no one pushed them. These people were putting their clothes on the ground so the king could step on them. Taking their clothes, which is most probably the only thing that these people owned, because they were poor, was a big deal, and meant they are putting all their lives for him, and the fathers interpret it as taking of the old man so the kingdom of God will make them new.
The Glorious entry of Christ into Jerusalem was followed by several important events: Him flipping the tables in the Temple and expelling all the traders from it. The Jews plotting against him, Giving His Body and Blood to the Disciples, His prayer at the Olive Garden, His capture by the soldiers, his scolding, his Judgement by Pilate, His crucifixion, His death and ultimately the resurrection.
The reason that the Church celebrates this every year is not to preserve history, nor to commemorate past events, but because the entry of Christ into Jerusalem should be a lesson for all of us of what happens when Christ enters into our hearts. And if you tell me, but Christ is already inside my heart, he already entered, I would ask you, as I would ask myself? How deep is he inside? Does he own all of your heart? Or there is some where to go deeper? This is why we celebrate it. To teach us how Christ can enter even further and change us.
So what does really happen?
The moment that Christ enters into our hearts he flips the tables. The tables that have been there for a very long time and have been comfortable and a source of sinful pleasure are immediately exposed. The place that should be preserved for holiness is restored. Everything that is not holy is expelled, and should exit immediately. There is no place for Christ and sinful pleasure at the same time. It might come as a shock, it might come tough, it might be even painful, but this is the only way to purification. The Church’s advice to you and me, don’t resist Christ, experience the temporary pain of cleansing, it is more than worth it.
If we don’t face the pain of cleansing, how are we to experience the joy of Resurrection. There is a big difference when you run water on your body to take a shower, rather than scrubbing your body with a coarse and tough sponge, some people even use tough stones to take all the dead skin and let the live skin breathe. This is what happens. Cleansing is painful, but therapeutic and the only way to healing.
Body and Blood
Then Christ out of His infinite love offers you and me His body, and His blood, and unites Himself to us. Sometimes we appreciate him beyond measure like St. Peter and St. John, but for certain areas in our lives and our hearts we resist like Judas and still deny his work for us, we want to do our own thing. This is why the Church on Holy Thursday keeps blaming Judas, not because she enjoys scolding him, but to warn us from the consequences of the rooms that are in our hearts that are still like him.
I will stop here, and will let the Church during the magnificent and rich services of Holy week encourage us to be like the five wise virgins who truly allowed Christ to come inside and were diligent in protecting their lamps filled with the oil of virtues, because they went through cleansing. The Church also warns us not to be like the fool virgins, who shout Hosanna from the lungs, but their hearts are closed to Christ’s healing out of fear of pain.
Christ entry to Jerusalem was Glorious, then painful, then filled with the passion that ends with death, and then the unimaginable joy of the Resurrection, if you truly allow Christ today to go deeper and deeper into your heart, I promise you, you will feel the pain of cleansing, and this is what the Church defines as carrying the cross and walking the path of passions with Christ, but only through this path, we will truly experience resurrection.
The Church’s Question to you and me today is: Will you shout Hosanna in the Highest from the bottom of Your heart?
May the Theotokos help all of us to do that. Amen