Blessed PALM SUNDAY from Bavaria, Germany - the feast of the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem
Blessed PALM SUNDAY from Bavaria, Germany - the feast of the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem

Благословенної ВЕРБНОЇ НЕДІЛІ із Баварії, Німеччина - свято Входу Господнього до Єрусалиму!

Under the omophorion of the Theotokos of Bavaria (Germany), about 400 people gathered inside and around Protection of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Munich, Germany for the prayerful celebration of the glorious feast of the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem, prayerfully entering into the Sacred and Holy Week leading to the Bright Feast of Pascha.

His Eminence Archbishop Daniel (in his capacity of the spiritual father of the Western-European Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora) led the liturgical service of the day with the assistance of Very Rev. Fr. Valentyn Smoktunowicz – Dean of Germany Deanery, Rev. Fr. Victor Mandziuk and Rev. Fr. Petro Valihursky - the clergy of the Deanery, Rev. Fr. Ivan Sydor of the Orthodox Church of the Ukraine and Deacon Alexander Smoktunowicz. Vladyka Daniel arrived in Germany a few days prior, in order to oversee the order and purchase of 7 medical ambulances for Ukraine, as they are sponsored by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

“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.  

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.”

Palm Sunday brought hundreds of faithful, both young and old – many of whom were recent refugees from Donetsk, Mariupol, Myklaiv, Symy regions of Ukraine - to celebrate this feast together with the hierarch. Many received the Holy Mysteries of Confession and Eucharist in preparation for the Feast of Feasts – Pascha – in a week.  

Each parishioner, holding in their hands the palm branches, received a blessing from their bishop with the sprinkling of Holy Water, thus blessing the branches and prayerfully imitating the biblical act of the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem.

Archbishop added in his reflections: “…This year, more so than in decades, Palm Sunday and the celebration of Pascha prompts us to consider the costs of human folly and the devastating acts of the ongoing war - the massacre of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. One cannot receive such horrific news without tears and fears. The feelings of great joy at the Feast of Feasts – and the sadness at the horror of our suffering brothers and sisters in Ukraine are difficult to reconcile, but the Peace offered by our Lord gives us hope.  The modern-day aggressor will never be able to erase our nation and people from the face of the earth – because the blessing of Lord has been with our people through the history, it preserved them and their self-identity – this blessing is with US today, as we are joined by the world-wide community, fighting the evil of death, as it is being exemplified by the acts of merciless slaughter of the innocent people of Ukraine by the Russian military, their political and yes – the religious leaders as well.”

The day concluded with a prayerful chanting of Ukrainian National Anthem, which was done by about 100 children in attendance, prayerfully holding palm branches and bravely exclaiming GLORY TO UKRAINE! – remembering 202 children that already lost their lives in Ukraine due to the aggression of the Russian Federation against the people of Ukraine…

As the faithful were leaving, Archbishop Daniel spoke to each person individually, encouraging them and offering prayers and blessings for the sons and husbands that serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine…. Just a few names: Petro, Stepan, Volodymyr, Dmytro, Tymofiy, Ivan, Hryhoriy, Marko, Ostan, Oleh, Rodion, Serhiy, Andrii, Yuriy – the soldiers of Ukraine – yet children of mothers and fathers, husbands of wives and parents of those children in attendance.

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Munich, the capital of Bavaria, located in southern Germany is Bavaria’s largest city and the third largest city in Germany (after Berlin and Hamburg). Munich lies about 30 miles north of the edge of the Alps and along the Isar River, which flows through the middle of the city.

Nestled in this picturesque vista, is the Protection of the Birth-Giver-of-God Ukrainian Orthodox parish, located in a chapel dating back to the 16thcentury.  The area is blessed to be the location of a well-known historic miracle performed by the Mother of God.  In 1489 a young boy had drowned, and his mother, full of faith, brought his body and laid it at the feet of the image of the Mother of God, seeking a miracle.  She was not disappointed, as her son was restored to live before many witnesses.  After this miracle numerous churches were erected over the years in honor of the Virgin Mary.

Blessed PALM SUNDAY from Bavaria, Germany - the feast of the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem

Photos by Fr. Ivan Sydor and Kamila Smoktunowicz

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