Today is Palm Sunday, the day the Church commemorates the Triumphant Entrance into Jerusalem of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. Today marks the beginning of His final journey for our salvation. Today He begins His final pilgrimage to Golgotha.
The idea of pilgrimage is ancient as the first books of the Old Testament. Ever since God established His relationship with people, human beings have participated in spiritual pilgrimages. In the ancient world, people would travel days, even weeks, to a holy place to celebrate Holy Days. Jesus Himself, traveled more than once to Jerusalem as a pilgrimage, but when God makes a pilgrimage, WE are blessed instead of Him being blessings. Such was the case with His final pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Holy Week has long been celebrated as a time of pilgrimage for Christians. One famous book that has been translated into English for our benefit, outlines The Pilgrimage of Egeria from the late Fourth Century. I had read this book in seminary, and then again last year in preparation for my trip to the Holy Lands. It is a blessing just to read her words as she experienced the blessing for traveling from holy site to holy site throughout the region, including a visit to the Tomb of Christ for Holy Week.
Thankfully, today we are not forced to travel thousands of miles to the Holy Lands, although that would be a blessing, to experience the same pilgrimage right here at home. The Church, following many of the ancient customs that Egeria witnessed more than 1700 years ago, gathers each night this week in pilgrimage to the Cross and Tomb of Christ. Every night, the Church will take one step closer in prayer and devotion to God, to experience His love and grace. Every night, the Church will pray as a family together for forgiveness from God and each other, to soften our hearts in love.
Holy Week will culminate in the commemoration of the Crucifixion and celebration of His glorious resurrection from the dead, but I invite you not to wait for the weekend to celebrate. This year it is time for pilgrimage to the Cross and Tomb of Christ, following His final days in prayer, reflection and repentance to open our hearts. This year it is time to dedicate the entire week to God. Make plans to come to Church EVERY night, not just Friday and Saturday. Make plans to join your fellow Orthodox Christians in a pilgrimage of faith and love.
When Christ took His final pilgrimage to Jerusalem, we were blessed. Imagine how much more our blessings will be if we join Him on His pilgrimage this year in the Church!