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Victory sign: Meditation for the palm sunday

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Princewill O. Ireoba

Palm Sunday is the sixth and last Sunday in Lent and the beginning of the Holy Week – an occasion for reflecting on the final week of Jesus’ life, involving His suffering or Passion, Death and Resurrection (Easter).

Palm Sunday marks the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, which kicked off His journey to the cross and glory. The events of the Palm Sunday, therefore, kick off the series of activities, which commemorate the final week of Christ on earth.

This final week of Jesus’ life is so important that the Gospels give a disproportionate amount of space to it. Jesus lived about 33 years, and His active ministry occupied about 3 of those years, yet the Gospels focus their attention on the last 8 days.

Taken together, there are 89 chapters in the Gospels, but 291/2 of those recount what happened between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

The principal event of the Palm Sunday is reported in the Gospel thus: ‘They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mat 21:7-9).

John, whose Gospel is more theological and interpretative specifically identifies the tree branches as palm and mentions their holding the palm branches instead of spreading them on the road (Jn 12:12-13).

The Palm As A Sign Of Victory
The palm branch, according to Wikipedia, is a symbol of victory and triumph originating in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world. It was adopted into Christian iconography to represent the victory of martyrs, or the victory of the spirit over the flesh.

By just preceding the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, Palm Sunday also served as a sign of His ultimate victory, which materialised in Easter.

A sign of victory boosts the morale and gives assurance of victory, even before the war is over or has even started. With the victory sign, the battle is embarked on with the slogan of the activists: ALUTA CONTINUA, VICTORIA ASCERTA (The Struggle Continues, Victory is Assured).

Before his great victory at the Milvian Bridge just outside Rome, Emperor Constantine (the 1st Roman Emperor to become a Christian and who liberated Christianity throughout the empire) saw a vision of the Chi-Rho symbol of Christ and the words in Greek, Εν τουτο νικα (en touto nika) – usually rendered in Latin since then as IN HOC SIGNO VINCES (In This Sign Conquer).

The Christogram “IHS” on priests’ stoles and church cloths, presumed by some to mean “In His Service”, actually stands both for “In Hoc Signo” and the first three letters of “Jesus” in Latinised Greek (IHSOVS). Jesus is the victory sign. In Him, victory is assured.

The palm branches we hold symbolise the triumph of Jesus and also indicate our own victory. In Christ, we are more than conquerors. Ours is not a decisive war, for Jesus has already fought and won the battle.

In the strength of this, we march forth to victory in the different battles of this life. Looking unto Jesus, we see things turning around for our good.

The Holy Week teaches us that there will surely be challenges. But if we endure to the end, we will surely overcome. Jesus journeyed to the Cross and ultimately ended in Glory. So shall we, if we keep following Him.

Ven. Dr. Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.
princewillireoba@gmail.com, trinityfoundationibrucentre@gmail.com


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