On the Saturday of St Lazarus, 23 April 2016, the traditional Palm Sunday Procession (pilgrimage) took place in Bucharest. In this event participated over 900 priests and thousands of faithful. The procession started from Radu Voda Monastery and concluded at the Patriarchal Cathedral, where His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of Romania, welcomed the pilgrims.
On this occasion, His Beatitude addressed to the faithful present on the Hill of Joy. The Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church explained that “pilgrimage has a multitude of spiritual meanings that show the liturgical and missionary dynamics of our Church”.
“Firstly, the Palm Procession is a memorial, a remembrance, a commemoration of the Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, after He raised his friend, Lazarus of Bethany; secondly, the Palm Pilgrimage is a re-actualization of the pilgrimages of the first centuries of Christianity; thirdly, this procession is a re-actualization of the Palm Sunday Processions (pilgrimages) that took place in Romania before the establishment of the atheist communist regime”.
Furthermore, the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church spoke about another meaning of the Palm Sunday Procession, namely that of prediction and witness of Christ’s victory upon death.
“Pilgrimage per se is a prediction and witness of Christ’s victory upon death after He entered Jerusalem to pass through suffering and death, to be buried and then to rise the third day from the dead, granting eternal life to the world. The Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into the earthly Jerusalem had an even higher goal, that is to pass through death unto Resurrection and to enter into the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will be no more death (Revelation 21:4), and where there shall be no darkness, but only light, because the city of the heavenly Jerusalem will not be illumined by sunlight, but by the very presence of God. That is why, the procession starts off from a church and gets to another church because, as we read in the blessing service (of the palms), the Church is the earthly icon of the heavenly Jerusalem, of the kingdom of the love of the unfading light and of the joy of the Most Holy Trinity. (…) Heavenly Jerusalem is represented by every Orthodox Church through the fact that Christ’s Resurrection is the foundation of common resurrection, the foundation of the resurrection of every one in the Last day”, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel added.
The Romanian Patriarch also spoke about the meaning of the palm branches carried in procession, noting that they are “a symbol of the virtues gathered during the forty days of Lent, which ended the previous Friday”. He also stressed that “the Saturday of St Lazarus and the Sunday of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem are two days that facilitate the ascent to Resurrection, and make the transition to the Great and Holy Week of the Passions of the Lord”.
“All the virtues acquired during Lent are an expression of offering brought to God for they grew in the souls of those who have fasted and prayed much as flowers of faith, flowers of spiritual feats, flowers of the light acquired by reading the Holy Scriptures, by prayer, and reading the lives of the saints commemorated during Lent. The Saturday of St Lazarus and the Sunday of the Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem are two days that facilitate our ascent to Resurrection, and make the transition to the Great and Holy Week of the Passions of the Lord. Provided the forty days (of Lent) were ascetical, the Week of the Holy Passions, also called the Great and Holy Week, becomes a mystical week of participation in the sufferings of Christ so that we can enjoy, participate and partake of the joy of His Resurrection. This spiritual dimension of proceeding towards Resurrection, of together-suffering with Christ during the Passion Week so that we can enjoy Easter, is already prefigured, foretasted, and predicted by the Palm Sunday procession”, the Patriarch of Romania said.
His Beatitude also explained that “from an ecclesial point of view, pilgrimage is communion in procession, a communion of parishes and monasteries, of clergy and lay faithful, in order to demonstrate that the Church is the communion of people in the love of the Most Holy Trinity, in the light of the Crucified and Risen Christ”.
“Nobody remains in his own church, but comes out to manifest and witness his brotherly communion in Christ, witnessing that His love towards us is the first and last sense of Christian life. Therefore, we congratulate all the hierarchs, priests, deacons and faithful who participate in such processions, not only in Bucharest, but all across the country. This way, the Church is manifested as vivid, both traditional and actual, as professing; and professing the faith is a source of joy, peace, hope and pure love. So, the Palm Sunday Procession is not a mere itinerary, but a missionary and social liturgical act. It is a missionary act because we convey the joy of the faith in the Crucified and Risen Christ to the whole world. It is a social and spiritual act because it gathers people in communion and gives hope to a world without peace and joy. We bring the peace of Christ to a hectic world. We bring the light of the Resurrection to a confused world. By witnessing Christ’s love for the world, we bring joy to a sad world”, the Patriarch of Romania said.
The Palm Sunday Procession was forbidden by the communist regime, in 1948, and was re-established in Bucharest, in 2008, at the initiative and with the blessing of His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel.