By Archpriest Rodion Putyatin
"God the Lord has appeared to us, make a feast, and rejoice, let us magnify Christ, with vines and branches, crying out with songs: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord our Savior."
On this day, we, according to the typikon of our Church, are in the habit of holding tree branches and burning candles.
With what intention did our Orthodox Church introduce such a custom? Let's say a few words about this for our edification.
Why do we tend to hold branches in our hands today? By this we remember the solemn entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. When the Lord was entering Jerusalem, the people went out to meet Him; some took off their clothes and threw them on the road along which the Lord passed, and some cut palm branches from trees and threw them on the road, filling the air with exclamations: "Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Thus, we now, holding branches in our hands, appear to meet Jesus Christ, as the people of Jerusalem once met Him. We ourselves, the listeners, will someday actually meet Jesus Christ, only not in the same way that the Jerusalemites met Him. The Jerusalemites saw in Him a meek king sitting on a donkey, and we will see Him coming in the clouds with power and great glory, we will see him as a Judge, terrible for the ungodly. And that is why, holding tree branches in our hands, we remember our future resurrection, our coming to meet the Judge, terrible for the ungodly.
Look at these branches: in winter they were as if dead, without life, but with the onset of spring they came to life again. And we will likewise die, and death will come for us, this harsh winter; but our spring will come, and we will come to life again, and our body, which has decayed in the earth, will again unite with the soul. Looking at the trees in winter, it seems impossible to imagine that they could come to life again, turn green, and yet it happens. Looking at the dead, lowering their bodies into the grave, you think that you have already said goodbye to them forever, and you cannot imagine that their decayed body would ever come to life, rise, and yet it will be so. Such is God's law - He will clothe the corruptible with incorruption and make the dead immortal.
So, holding tree branches in our hands, we express that we are meeting the Lord Jesus Christ. What do burning candles mean now? Why do we hold them in our hands? By this we show our zeal for Jesus Christ, our fiery desire to meet Him. Just as a candle burns in our hands, so does our heart burn with love for Jesus Christ and the desire to meet Him. Oh, when would that be so! Oh, that our hearts would burn with love for Jesus Christ as much as candles burn before holy icons!
But listeners, we can still meet the Lord, and we do not have to go far to meet Him. He constantly stands at the door of our heart. And therefore, one has only to open these doors, that is, to wish with all one's heart, and He will ascend. And what joy will then be in us! If the May sun suddenly shone on a gloomy, cold winter night, how then everything would revive, everyone would rejoice! This is what happens to the soul of a sinner when the Sun of righteousness, Christ our God, shines in it.
Then there is real paradise in the heart. We, rightly calling ourselves sinners, consider ourselves unworthy for Christ to dwell in us, and therefore many sometimes do not even want to open the doors of their hearts for Him. Ah, listeners, that is why it is necessary to open the doors of hearts, that we are sinners: Jesus Christ will make us righteous. Then it is necessary to hasten to receive Jesus Christ into ourselves, when we have many sins: Jesus Christ will destroy all our sins in us, for He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2).
Thus, it is only necessary to open the doors of the heart, to express only the desire to meet Jesus Christ, and He will enter. But do we open these doors for Jesus Christ, do we express a desire to meet Him? Alas, the doors of our hearts are all locked, we are all not at home for Jesus Christ; our heart is full of worries about the world, about wealth, about honors, about pleasures, but there is no place for the Lord in it. Indeed. How do we prove that we are glad to meet the Lord coming in our hearts?
When Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem, some of the people took off their clothes and threw them on the road along which the Lord was walking. But what are we, the listeners, throwing up for the Lord? Do we give up those pleasures that He does not love? Are we throwing those things that are unpleasant to Him? What good is it that we made a feast and came to this temple? What good is it that we magnify Christ, calling out: "Blessed is he who comes"?
No, listeners, if we really want to meet the Lord and have Him always in our souls, then we must certainly leave those pleasures that He does not like, and give up those that are unpleasant to Him. And we all know very well what He does not like and what is unpleasant to Him; this is what we are too pleased with and that we love too much, we love to the point of forgetting God.
Christ our Savior! You are always standing at the door of our heart; You expect us to repent. Oh, don't go away, wait more and more; maybe, at last, we will come to our senses, and repent! Amen.