April 24, 2016

The Triumphant Entry (Dr. Haralambos Bousias)

By Dr. Haralambos M. Bousias,
Great Hymnographer of the Alexandrian Church

Triumph presupposes victory and victory a legitimate struggle and difficult battle. The crowned victor lauded by the crowds enters his homeland triumphantly through arches erected for his welcome.

In spiritual battles, which are much tougher than the worldly, military, local and national ones, since the opponent is relentless, tenacious and ferocious, the victor is accompanied by the eternal Victor, He Who told us "without Me you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5), and is praised by the Holy Angels as he enters the heavenly places.

In order for Christ to enter Jerusalem triumphantly it had to be preceded by the resurrection of Lazarus. By this the God-man showed His divine hypostasis and his sovereignty over the living and the dead.

His triumph was the consequence of the recognition of His power by the people, those volatile people who at first turned up at the road and welcomed Him as the Messiah and soon after led Him to the Cross as a deceiver.

This entrance, however, was the beginning of His earthly martyrdom and death by the Cross, by which He put death to death and granted all of us eternal life.

And His martyric departure from this temporary life on the hill of Golgotha meant the final triumphant entrance into His heavenly Kingdom, the place "where he was before" (Jn. 6:62).

For Christ to enter triumphantly into our hearts it must be preceded by our resurrection from our passions and sins.

By this resurrection from the muck of our sinful life we indicate to Him our intentions to leave our earthly existence and the domination over us of the ancient deciever of the human race. The entrance of Christ into our hearts is the beginning of our salvation, which takes place through our pain, our sorrows and our personal ascent up Golgotha without complaint.

At Golgotha, we do not ascend alone, but have as our own Simon the Cyrene the Lord Himself, He Who enters our hearts always with our own consent, in order that we will not feel alone, and He assures us: "Behold I am with you always until the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).

Then our martyric departure from this life will portend our final triumphal entry, since death is necessarily accompanied by pain and tears, to a place "where there is no pain or sadness or weeping, but interminable life."

The triumph of our Christ in Jerusalem, of He Who is "rich in mercy" (Eph. 2:4), the King of All and Word of God in the Highest, is a triumph of humility, a triumph of poverty. The Lord entered the Holy City sitting on a lowly donkey.

He did not hold a scepter or gold-trimmed staff in His hand, but with it He blessed the people. He came from a difficult to win battle, the battle against evil, falsehood, hypocrisy and avarice. He came from a battle and went into battle.

He was going into a tougher battle, not to be crowned with an everlasting or golden crown, but with a crown of thorns, and to be flogged, mocked and crucified like a criminal.

Trumpets did not sound the paean of victors ahead of Him as He entered, but He was followed by innocent children, a symbol of the simplicity of Christians, who cried out with all the strength of their souls: "Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mk. 11:9), and instead of flags they held palm and fig leaves.

The entrance of Christ in our hearts is a triumph of our own humility and simplicity and meekness. He Himself said this through the mouth of His Prophet Isaiah: "These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word" (Is. 66:2).

Christ enters our hearts with our permission not as a king, but as a loving father, as a savior. He monitors our humility, He monitors our efforts and ongoing struggles against the powers of darkness, and He enters our hearts to support them in the upcoming struggles of our lives, which when we see them approaching we flinch, despair, and our only resort is to call upon Him.

Human paeans are not heard at the entrance of Christ into our hearts.

The paean of our personal triumph is chanted by our lips, and from the fluttering of our hearts are expressed perpetual thanksgiving, "We hymn You, we bless You, we thank You, Lord!"

And instead of flags our hands hold the manuscripts of our sins, which we present to Him, that He may tear them up with the hands of His love, His philanthropy, His ineffable goodness. He Himself sought this when He said: "My son give Me your heart" (Prov. 23:26). For this tearing up He came into this world "to release all people of their debts", those who call upon Him daily: "Hosanna, blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord."

The entrance of Christ in our hearts, which makes our Guardian Angel dance with joy and heaven celebrate, alters our personal character and changes the course of our life.

Saint Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, tells us this, noting that the Lord comes to us full of light, where we are in darkness and the shadow of death, to lead us to light and life.

He comes to lift us who are fallen, to release us who are captives, to restore sight to us who are blind, to console those who mourn, to give rest to the weary, to quench the thirst of the thirsty, to vindicate the aggrieved, to encourage the desperate, to unite the divided, to healed the diseased, to bring serenity to the beleaguered.

For our personal triumph the Lord asks us to open the door of our hearts to Him and to ask Him to stoop down and dwell within us, saying:

Come, Lord, as victor, as triumphant, and "reside with us" (Lk. 24:29), that we may also come out as victors by Your power in all the battles of our lives. And as victors and triumphant through the battles You suffered, we may be found worthy to enter the dwellings of Your glory, and abide with You in Your Kingdom, which You prepared for we who are unworthy, since the beginning of the world, being good and a lover of mankind, that we may chant with Your Holy Angels the paeans of our salvific faith: One is Holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.