This Sunday, April 12th, will be Palm Sunday, the day Western Christians commemorate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We call it Palm Sunday because many of the Jewish celebrants there at that time lined the pathway which Jesus took into the Holy City and broke palm branches to wave joyfully in the air and to cast upon the ground before Him to acknowledge Him as their King. All the while, they shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" (Matthew 21:9; all Scripture quotes taken from the NRSV.) The word "hosanna", when translated from its Hebrew root, literally means "Save, we pray." These were words quoted right from Psalm 118:25, 26, which says, "Save us, we beseech you [or, we pray], O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord."
This spectacular reception began the week we call Holy Week, but as glorious as it seemed, it ended with Jesus' arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial. However, exactly one week after this kingly reception, Jesus resurrected and appeared to His closest disciples. The Apostle Paul said there were more than 500 (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). This is the most significant of all Christian holy days, Jesus' Resurrection Day, the day we call Easter!
Eastern Christians commemorate Holy Week and Easter a little later, but I'll let Chaplain (MAJ) Ed Macura explain that more fully when he writes for this column from the Eastern Orthodox Christian perspective in a couple of weeks. Although there is a movement underway to synchronize the Eastern and Western Church observances of these occasions, it may not happen for a few more years.
Next week, however, Mr. Ben Rosenbluth, Ft. Sill's Jewish Community Lay Leader, will share about Passover, a High Holy Day for Jews and another of the many Jewish roots of Christianity. It is from the Passover Seder or Paschal Meal that much of the Christian imagery of Jesus and the service of Holy Communion were derived. It was also about the time for the celebration of the Passover that Jesus was crucified. Therefore, while our Jewish friends eat of the Paschal Lamb in remembrance of the lamb slain at the first Passover in Egypt where its blood was spread upon the door posts of their ancestors' homes to mark them as God's people, Christians see Jesus as the Paschal Lamb Whose blood shed on the cross is applied to our souls, when we accept Him as Savior, to mark us as God's people. We partake of Holy Communion (the Last Supper of Jesus), also called The Eucharist (which means Thanksgiving) on Holy Thursday, and we conduct a Tenebrae Service (Service of Darkness) in remembrance of Jesus' crucifixion, death, and burial on Good Friday. However, the most special Christian service of all the year is Easter Sunday, when millions of Christians rise before dawn to celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead at a special Sunrise Service. Then, later at the regularly appointed hour of worship, they gather again with millions more (who couldn't force themselves to rise before dawn) to celebrate some more! What a glorious celebration it is, too! Christ, the Lord, is risen! He is risen indeed!
So, whether you're Christian or Jewish or something else, I hope this article enriches your understanding of these observances, if only a little. To learn more about these and a number of other religious faiths, browse the Fort Sill Ministry Team Home Page at http://sill-www.army.mil/chapel/fsokchap.htm and click on the "Other Links of Interest" hyperlink. For information about either of the religious services mentioned above, contact your unit chaplain. God bless, and have a Blessed Palm Sunday, Passover, and Easter!!