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 two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant; and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise’?” Matthew 21:15-16 (Gospel of Orthros on Palm Sunday)
Good morning Prayer Team!
It is interesting to see the world through the eyes of a child. A young child doesn’t know what it is like to be cynical. A young child doesn’t know what it means to doubt. Little children don’t carry grudges—they move from sad to happy, from crying to laughing, very quickly. If you tell them you are going to do something, they easily believe.
So, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and people were saying “The King is coming,” the children came out and waved palm branches and sang “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Some of the adults, no doubt, were cynical—after all, where were the chariots and the army—If Jesus was a king after all, shouldn’t He be entering Jerusalem as a military conqueror?
The Jewish Temple leadership saw Jesus as a threat. There were no armies to be afraid of, but the mere mention of this man as a “king” certainly unnerved them. Jesus was a Jew, and the top of the Jewish “food chain” were the temple elite.
The Roman authorities had to be concerned. Their “king” was Caesar. And a bunch of people crying out for any other king could pose a problem for them and threaten their political stranglehold on the region.
So, it was the children who led the way. Imagine the cry that the “king” is coming, and the children grabbing whatever was at hand to greet Him. There weren’t fancy metal and feathered fans as one would find in a king’s court (think of the Pharoah in the movie “The Ten Commandments”), so the children improvised, and grabbed palm branches to waive at the “king.” And who was this king? For the children, it didn’t matter—they heard that a person of importance was passing through and they didn’t want to miss out on the event.
When I was a child, I didn’t know much about Holy Week. All I remember was that it was the week that the church was filled to overflowing and that we got to stay up late, and that was good enough for us. We were really excited! I can’t say I really knew much about Jesus either. I was told that He loved me and died for my sins and that was good enough too.
As an adult, there are times I have been more cynical about the faith. I’ve wondered, “how could all of these things we read in the scripture possibly have happened,” rather than taking it on faith. I’ve questioned God’s love and wondered about His intentions as we watch tragedies happen around us. And sometimes worship is a chore, rather than a joy.
I’m reminded though, that it is the faith of a child that stands us in good stead in order to go to the Kingdom of God. We need to have our eyes wide open in wonder rather than squinting with criticism. We need hearts that are soft and easy to forgive, rather than hardened and calloused. We need to remember the mantra we learned in pre-school that hands are for helping and not for hurting. And we need to remember that it’s good to laugh and okay to be silly.
Jesus says in Matthew 18:3 “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” He encourages us to be child-like. As we make our way through Lent and again to Holy Week, let us try to remember the wonder we had as children. Those children who waved palms on Palm Sunday, they didn’t hold anything back. They had unbridled joy, they were totally “into it.” When I was a child, I didn’t totally understand everything. I didn’t need to. I remember my priest lifting up the chalice before partaking of Holy Communion and thinking how powerful it was to see God standing over all of us in that moment. I still think that today when I lift the chalice. When is the last time you felt unbridled joy? Try to capture that in your life and faith. This is when you will be better able to meet Christ as your King and God, when you recapture that joy and innocence of the children on Palm Sunday.
Of course, children don’t stay children. They learn more about the things they didn’t understand as a child. And our understanding of the faith should be more than what we understood as children. We should, however, seek to learn about our faith, but remember to combine a child-like innocence and joy with an adult sense of focus and purpose, leaving cynicism and demands to the side and embracing with trust and optimism.
To confirm the general resurrection before Your Passion, You resurrected Lazarus from the dead, O Christ our God. Therefore imitating the children, carrying the symbols of victory, we cry out to You the Victor over death: “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed are You, the One, who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Apolytikion, Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Look for reasons to be joyful today!
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