Yesterday was Palm Sunday, Κυριακή των Βαΐων, and the church celebrated the glorious and brilliant feast of the Entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (John 12:1-18). Zechariah had prophesied the entrance of the Messiah into Jerusalem, saying:
“Rejoice greatly ... O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King comes unto Thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass”, Zech. 9:9.
The contemporary Jews associated this prophecy with the expected Messiah. This action of Christ testifies to His nature as Messiah, but with the definite declaration that His Kingdom was not of this world. The main road leading to Jerusalem was covered with palm trees.
The multitudes, with palm branches in their hands, spread their cloaks on the road as a show of respect, crying out
“Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”
A custom of distributing branches of palms to the people in the Church prevails to this day.
During the remainder of Holy Week, the Church advances its liturgical life by about twelve hours, celebrating morning services the night before, and evening services in the morning.
On Palm Sunday evening, the Church celebrates the Orthros (Matins) of Holy Monday, in the first of four “Bridegroom Services.” Christ is called the “Bridegroom” because in His Passion, He gives His life for His Bride, the people of God, the Church, just as a husband will sacrifice everything for his wife and family. From Holy Monday to Holy Wednesday, some parishes celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the morning.
This very ancient Divine Liturgy is a Vespers Service, with the Holy Communion given from the sanctified gifts from the Liturgy on the previous Sunday. This Liturgy is very solemn, and spiritual, reflecting the grandeur and simplicity of the early Church.
In the Orthros of Holy Monday, the Church remembers the blessed and noble Joseph and the fig tree which was cursed and withered by the Lord.
In the Orthros of Holy Tuesday, celebrated this Holy Monday evening, the Church remembers the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), who were waiting for the arrival of the Bridegroom at a wedding feast.
Ιδού, ο νυμφίος έρχεται
εν τω μέσω της νυκτός
και μακάριος ο δούλος
ο ευρήσει γρηγορούνται,
ανάξιος δε πάλιν,
ον ευρήσει ραθυμούντα
βλέπε ούν, ψυχή μου,
μη τω ύπνω κατενεχθής
ίνα μη τω θανάτω παραδοθής,
και της βασιλείας έξω κλεισθής
αλλά ανάνηψον κράζουσα
άγιος, άγιος, άγιος ει ο θεός ημών,
διά της θεοτόκου ελέησον ημάς.