Plunge into Death and Resurrection
Life is a preparation for death. Palm Sunday is a day of celebration, yet a celebration cast under the shadow of Golgotha. We pick up our palms and join Christ in jubilant procession, but this procession does not end today. It continues with each day of Holy Week. Before we reach Bright and Beautiful Pascha, our road leads us to Golgotha. We die to self before we live in Christ. Holy Week is a microcosm of life’s journey, into the valley of death, and out again in eternity.
We start in the heart. God arrives. How do we welcome him? The men and women at the gate of Jerusalem are an allegory of our soul. Some shout “Hosanna” and worship Christ as King. Others stand on the side and plot his death. These are the conflicting thoughts and affections in our heart. St. Nicholas Velimirovich writes:
“The multitudes of people, crowded and pushing one against another, joyfully awaiting and greeting Christ, symbolize the noble sentiments and exalted thoughts of a person who joyfully greets God, his Savior and Deliverer. The leaders of the crowd of people, who hate Christ and want to kill Him, personify the lower desires and earthbound thoughts, which take the upper hand over man’s noble nature and oppress it. Now this lower human nature rebels against God’s entry into the soul, for when God is enthroned there, the lower nature will inevitably be destroyed.”
So many mixed feelings and conflicted interests lurk in the heart. God’s arrival stirs the waters, but if we let him in, he will bring victory.
Christ walks into Jerusalem and purges the temple. What does God find in our heart? What are our loves? His entrance means a purging.
“Who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like a launderer’s soap. And He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify…and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness” (Malachi 3:3).
After the purifying of the heart comes death.
"And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him" (Matthew 27:30-31).
Our life is filled with death. I remember when my father died. I have never felt so much sorrow, and I have never known so much peace. From that moment on, heaven stopped being an idea and became a reality, tangible and near. We all experience death. It is painful. It is an experience kin to having your gut pulled out from your side. But we are not left empty-handed. Sigmund Freud was so right when he observed, “We can lose nothing without replacing it.” With every loss comes a gain. With our deaths, comes necessary detachment, as our heart makes room for eternity. This is not our home. We are pilgrims.
It is not enough that God tests us. We must die before we can live. This was the road to Golgotha. It is our road too for these next seven days.
The Bright Pascha came. The tomb was empty.
“Do not be afraid,” the angel greeted them. “I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen” (Matthew 8:5)
Holy Week is no quaint ritual. It is our plunge into death and resurrection. May God send his angels into our hearts and community this week, and carry us through every step. Blessed pilgrimage!