“Rejoice! ... and again I say Rejoice!” So we heard today in the reading of the epistle. It might seem odd to talk about rejoicing as we stand here at the beginning of Holy Week when we recall the suffering and death of our Lord. But the Apostle is quite insistent in his admonition to rejoice today. Why is it that we rejoice? What is the reason for this admonition? The Apostle tells us, “The Lord is at hand”. And that is true, for today we celebrate the coming of the Lord, His entry into Jerusalem which was an image and prophecy of His second coming in glory at the end of the world. The coming of the Lord is a joyous event for those of us who love Him. It is not at all fearful except for those who hate Him or who have separated themselves from Him. For them the coming of the Lord is the realization of all their fears. But for those of us who love our Lord Jesus Christ, His coming is the cause of great joy and rejoicing, for it is the realization of all our hopes and desires.
Today, indeed, “the Lord is at hand” and comes to us riding on a donkey. Now this image may not seem very special to most of us, however, in the time of the Prophet and King David to ride on a donkey was a privilege of royalty - only the king and those of similar rank were permitted to ride rather than walk. The fact that our Lord came *riding* into Jerusalem on a donkey was a clear message that He was indeed the promised Messiah, the heir of David the King. At this moment, it was clear for all the people that one claiming to be the Messiah had come - and this one had also raised a man four days dead from the tomb and restored him to life! Indeed the Lord was at hand, present in their midst and they rejoiced at His coming.
Lent is not about suffering or deprivation but that rather it is our spiritual springtime, the time to warm the heart and prepare for the coming of the Lord. For the past 6 weeks we have been preparing ourselves, we have been putting things in order, using the lenten discipline to clear the residue of sin from the soul. We have been preparing ourselves for the coming of Jesus Christ. Today all that preparation, all our hope, is fulfilled, today the King comes to us, today we rejoice for we have reached the end of our preparation and now we join our Beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ to journey with Him, as He takes us from earth to heaven. So rejoice!
The Apostle then says to us, “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” This is our instruction for the coming week, for Holy Week. The Lord has come and now we focus on those things which are pure, lovely, good, virtuous and so on. That is the summary of the events of Holy Week and Pascha. We have prepared ourselves, and now the task for which we have prepared is before us. What can be more pure and lovely and good than to think upon the lifegiving sufferings and death and resurrection of our Lord. What virtue or praise is there other than to participate in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ?
We are at the beginning of Holy Week, today our Lord comes and we sing His praise, we wave the branches of palm and willow and shout “Hosanna in the Highest, Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord”. We rejoice for the King has come, the one for Whom we have prepared and for Whom we have been waiting. The time of preparation and waiting is over, now is the time to greet the King with shouts of rejoicing, with spiritual songs and hymns. Having greeted Him, let us then walk with Him, rejoicing in His presence, fearing nothing and worrying about nothing for the fullness of all our desire is present with us, our Lord and Master, our protector, our Father. What more is there that we wish for, hope for, need in this life but to be with Him. The Psalmist writes, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me, Thy rod and staff they comfort me.” Today the Lord comes and we walk with Him through His suffering, through His death, through His descent into Hell and into His Resurrection. But through all of that we need have no fear, we need have no concern or worry, for we are walking with Him. For us there is nothing left but to wonder at the boundlessness of God’s mercy, of His love for us, of the abundance of His grace. And of course to “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice”