Today is Palm (in Russia – Pussy Willow) Sunday. People come to church with small bunches of pussy willows in their hands. Everyone is in a festive mood. Only one week, filled with wondrous divine services, is left until Pascha.
It would be nice to go back in time in order to draw a small lesson about the meaning of these pussy willows that everyone finds so cute. This feast, according to the church ustav (rubrics) is called The entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. Almost two thousand years ago, the Lord, in His humility, came to Jerusalem; to be exact: He rode in on a donkey. The day before His coming to Jerusalem, He worked a great miracle: He raised His friend Lazarus, who was dead four days and already began to decompose and stink in the tomb, from the dead. The news of such a great and until that time unheard of miracle spread quickly and reached Jerusalem. For that reason, the people in great multitudes gathered at the entrance to the city in order to look upon this great Wonderworker, the Lord, Who raises from the dead.
The roads in those days were unpaved and, in the hot and dry climate of the Holy Land, very dusty. That was the very reason why the people put their garments and wide palm branches on the road, making a sort of a carpet, so that when the Saviour were to come there would not be any dust in the air and it would be possible to see Him. Palms do not grow in Russia, that is the reason why from ancient times there this feast among the people is referred to not as Palm (as it is in the warm countries), but rather as the Pussy Willow Sunday.
The action of the people offers us the following lesson: the Lord often passes by us, very close to us, but we do not see Him. In order to see the Lord noetically, we must undertake some labour, offer at least a small sacrifice to God. People put their garments and palm branches on the road. Both things are obtained with labour; even if they were to be bought with money, because that has to be earned first as well. Similarly, in the spiritual life our labours according to our strength: prayer, fasting, and helping our neighbor cover the dust of the passions and cares of the daily life, giving us the possibility to see the Lord spiritually.
Alas, often we wish that others should labour instead of us: let the father (the priest) pray in the altar, let the candle burn before the icon. As for ourselves, we do not want to work and that is why we do not receive the grace of God and His consolation.
Standing in the church of God, holding pussy willows (palms) in our hands, let us remember how the people met the Lord during His entry into Jerusalem. Let us cover the dusty road of earthy trials and sorrows with the possible labours unto the glory of God, with the keeping of His commandments. Then we will see that this road, on the way to the death on the Cross, was travelled by the King of Glory Himself: by the Lord Jesus Christ. Having seen Him, we also will not be afraid of following Him and go to our cross. Walking after Him, seeing His sufferings, His patience and absence of murmuring, we sinners also will be consoled, for how can one complain about our small trials, when looking upon the passion of the Lord, the passion that He endured for us and for our sake.