Hundreds of Orthodox Christians of Ukrainian descent packed a downtown Parma, OH St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral on Sunday morning, as Archbishop Daniel, the spiritual father of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA led the Palm Sunday services, prayerfully entering into the Sacred and Holy Week leading to the Bright Feast of Pascha.
“It’s all about unleashing the Gospel,” Archbishop Daniel said during his homily. “Not only in your life, but in your world: the world of your home, the world of your workplace, the world of your neighborhood…Today is most significant time for the liturgical year for the church."
Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week -- the final days of Lent for Orthodox Christians and others. "This is the time where we follow the passion, the death and resurrection of Christ," Vladyka Daniel said.
As parishioners held palm branches and pussy willows, the hierarch explained that this is a time to celebrate Christ's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. "We begin with kind of a sense of the joyfulness of Christ, but within a very short period of time, the turning on Christ and his condemnation and death on the cross," Archbishop Daniel said.
It is only through embracing the cross that the resurrection is understood. As Holy Week continues, the pastor of St. Vladimir Cathedral, Fr. John Nakonachny says it's important the faithful attend as many services as possible.
"Each of the days represents, if you want, a continuous action of following Christ from the upper room. On Holy Thursday right though the suffering on the cross on Good Friday to the glorious resurrection on Pascha (Easter) Saturday -- the Pascha Morning, which is a celebration of the empty tomb and resurrection of Christ… During Holy Week,” Vladyka Daniel says “…it's crucial to integrate spirituality into one's life and contemplate God's love for us.”
"Think in terms of a God that so loves us he becomes one with us and enters into every aspect of our life, our suffering, our death -- everything Christ identified with us except for sin. Therefore by doing that it's a statement that God is never apart from us in everything we experience in life," Archbishop Daniel stated to the parishioners of the cathedral.
Prior to the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel tonsured Ryan Michael Sima as Reader for St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, OH.
10 years ago, Reader Ryan chanted the Epistle reading at the archpastoral Consecration of Vladyka Daniel using Braille. Reader Ryan is physically blind, but at every liturgical Service he sings in the choir and chants/reads utilizing Braille system.... Reader Ryan is the first physically blind Reader of our Holy Church!
The entire parish family embraced the new Reader and it became evident when Fr. John Nakonachny, pastor of St. Vladimir’s along with Fr. Michael Hontaruk and Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay, both clergy of the cathedral family, hugged Reader Michael and exchanged words of love and Christian care.
Vladyka Daniel concluded the Divine Services of Pal Sunday with the following words: “… As in the past, with the palm branches in our hands, the society welcomes the Lord saying “Hosanna!”… but yet the same society tends to scream out loud “Crucify Him!”… And we all have done it with palms in our hands and the echoes of “Hosanna” in the air.
So, each year we need this PALM Sunday to remember this reality. And we need these palms and pussy willows as a reminder – and a challenge.
They remind us that we are called to be heralds of Christ – to celebrate Him the way they did that day in Jerusalem.
And these palms challenge us to keep crying “Hosanna,” to keep proclaiming the Good News – even when the world tempts us to do otherwise, even when it seems like it would be easier to go with the crowd and simply choose Barabbas.
These palms challenge us to not turn our back and walk away. They challenge us to not step over Christ, or ignore him. And they challenge us not only to remember what we have done to him, but what he has done for us. That is what this week is about.
Before we look ahead to next Sunday, and the big plans and the big meal, etc. - look back. And look within. And look to these palms.
Look at what we are called to do…and who we are called to be.”