As the Lord was going to His voluntary Passion, He was saying to His Apostles on the way: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be delivered up, as it is written of Him.” Come, therefore, and let us accompany Him, with purified minds, and let us be crucified with Him, and for His sake mortify the pleasures of this life, that we may also live with Him and hear Him declaring: “No long do I go the earthly Jerusalem to suffer, but I go to My Father, and your Father; to My God and your God. And I will raise you up with Me to the upper Jerusalem, in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
~Praises, Bridegroom Service, Palm Sunday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, He began to tell them what was to happen to Him, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and spit upon Him, and scourge Him, and kill Him; and after three days He will rise.”
Mark 10:32-34
Under the Old Testament Jewish Law, there were three required pilgrimages each year to Jerusalem. In other words, there were three times a year when all Jewish males were required to present themselves in the temple in Jerusalem. These were the Passover; the feast of weeks, also called Pentecost, which occurred fifty days after Passover; and the feast of the Tabernacles. 
We know that the events of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection took place during one of these pilgrimages, which occurred at the Passover. Passover is going to be an important theme in the Holy Week narrative, because Passover commemorated the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt after the tenth plague, which God brought against the Egyptians, the death of the first born sons of Egypt. The Hebrews were spared by spreading the blood of a lamb over their doors and the angel of death would “pass over” the homes which had the blood of the lamb on them. Hence, the name “Passover.” It was after this that the Hebrews were freed from bondage and found freedom. We will be coming back to this theme throughout this study. 
Holy Week is like a play in many acts. The first act was the Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday morning, and the theme of this act was the triumph of Christ, first His raising of Lazarus from the dead, and then His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. On Palm Sunday night, the second act of Holy Week begins, which is the final teachings of Christ both publicly in the temple and privately to His disciples. 
As so often happens in plays and movies, there are flashback scenes in the story. We will discuss several of these. One of the beautiful hymns of Palm Sunday night references a conversation that the Lord was having with His Disciples on the way to Jerusalem, which happened before the raising of Lazarus and Palm Sunday. On this journey, Jesus was telling His disciples about the things that were about to happen to Him. He did this on multiple occasions. I imagine that Jesus knew that it would be hard for them to comprehend what He was saying. They knew He was disliked, especially by the temple elite, but it would have been hard to imagine that anyone could comprehend the brutality of the Passion, the overall condemnation that came from the crowd, the battering of Christ’s Body, and the pain and indignity of the Cross. It would also have been hard for them to imagine that their Lord and friend would die and be resurrected from the dead. In telling the Disciples multiple times what would happen, they would better understand what was happening as it was unfolding before them. Interestingly enough, however, despite everything happening just as Jesus said it would happen, there was still plenty of doubt amongst the disciples. 
The hymn we are reflecting on in this reflection contains three specific parts. The first part is the recounting of the Scripture passages where Jesus foretells His Passion to the Disciples. 
The second part of the hymn is a direction to us to follow in His footsteps. Each of us is called to a “passion” of our own. While we are not likely to be nailed to a cross, we are invited to be “crucified with Him” in the sense of laying down our lives for him, which the hymn indicates happens when we “mortify the pleasures of this life.” In this case, “pleasure” does not mean we are not allowed to do or experience anything that feels good. It refers specifically to “sinful pleasures.”  
The third part of the hymn speaks of the “upper Jerusalem,” the Kingdom of Heaven. Unlike the earthly Jerusalem, we will not need to make multiple pilgrimages each year there, because we will reside there forever. And unlike the earthly Jerusalem, which was a place of suffering for Jesus, and metaphorically for us as well (we may not even go to Jerusalem, but in the place, we live, in the city in which we worship, we also experience suffering as a result of the fallen world), the heavenly Jerusalem will be a place of everlasting glory. The hymn tells us that Christ’s hope for us is to raise us up with Him to the upper Jerusalem, which then goes back to what we’ve already discussed about Christ inviting us to be His bride, and us having the appropriate preparation to enter into the marriage feast. 
We the faithful, having come to the saving Passion of Christ our God, let us glorify His ineffable forbearance; that through His compassion He may also raise us up, who are deadened by sin, for He is good and loves mankind. (Praises, Bridegroom Service, Palm Sunday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Christ invites us to walk with Him continually. Let us share in His suffering by mortifying (dying towards) our sinful tendencies so that we can walk with Him in eternal glory in the Upper Jerusalem, the Kingdom of Heaven.


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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