On Sunday the April 21st His Eminence Benjamin Archbishop of San-Francisco and the West headed the Divine Liturgy and All-Night Vigil office with Lity on the eve of the Feast at Holy Virgin Mary Orthodox Cathedral of Los Angeles. He was joined by the dean of the Parish - Archpriest Nazar Polataiko, Hieromonk Nikon (Kashkovalov), Protodeacon Arkadiy Voloshchuk, Deacon Kirill Dotsenko. 

After the reading of the Holy Gospel His Eminence preached a sermon:

 

On Sunday the April 21st His Eminence Benjamin Archbishop of San-Francisco and the West headed the Divine Liturgy and All-Night Vigil office with Lity on the eve of the Feast at Holy Virgin Mary Orthodox Cathedral of Los Angeles. He was joined by the dean of the Parish - Archpriest Nazar Polataiko, Hieromonk Nikon (Kashkovalov), Protodeacon Arkadiy Voloshchuk, Deacon Kirill Dotsenko. 

After the reading of the Holy Gospel His Eminence preached a sermon:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We heard the prophecy of Zechariah last night:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem:
behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly,
and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

When Titus entered Rome, having defeated Israel in 70 AD, he rode a
white charger and was escorted by his troops to the cheers of the
citizens of Rome. And what was Israel but a backwater in the Eastern
part of the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, today the conqueror of
mankind’s most ancient enemy, death, enters, not the capitol of the
Roman world, but Jerusalem, the Holy City, not on a white charger, but
on the humble foat of an ass, to the delight of children and the praises
of the poor. Paims and branches were Christ's banners. And in less
than a week’s time, even these few will turn on him and demand his
execution.

Over what or over whom is Christ victorious? He enters Jerusalem
today as a conqueror, but conqueror of what? The prophet Zechariah
speaks of the one seated upon the foal of an ass having salvation.
Salvation from what?

Yesterday love brought Jesus to Bethany to restore his friend Lazarus
who had fallen ill and died to life. Yesterday Sheol, the place of the
dead, was put on notice and trembled. Yesterday Sheol lost one human
soul. In a week, utterly defeated, embittered and fettered, Sheol will
lose all the righteous dead. Today death is put on notice, it will be
defeated and no longer have dominion over mankind. And what a
strange victory there will be! This most powerful of victories, one

greater than the victories of every monarch and general in human
history combined, will be accomplished by surrender. The Creator of
Heaven and Earth will surrender himself to death at the hands of his
creatures. The hands he himself fashioned from the earth will nail him
to a cross and his side will be pierced by a spear. The one the heavens
cannot contain will be laid in a narrow tomb like any other human
being. And descending into Sheo! Christ, the victim of death will
become its conqueror instead.

This was why the Word of God was born of the Virgin Maryl This is why
God entered into time and wrapped himself in Adam’s flesh! This is
why the Author of Life became what we are in every respect, assuming
our humanity, making it his own, so that we, having been buried with
him in baptism, might be raised with him to eternal life.

But to understand the victory celebrated today, we need to begin with
the person of Jesus Christ, to start with who he is. He is the New Adam,
the New Man. He accomplishes in his very person what Adam failed to
achieve. Our father, Adam was created and brought into being for
nothing less than to share in God’s divine life. In his, and consequently
our own disobedience, that calling was not realized. Instead of sharing
God’s life eternally, Adam died. He died not because he was being
punished, but because he separated himself from the very source of life
— God. Christ entered time and enters into Jerusalem today to join
together that which was torn asunder, to reconnect, if you will,
humanity with God. And, having become one of us in every way, Christ
will voluntarily die on the Cross, die the very same death Adam died,
our death, and to transform it into a path to life. He will, as the Paschal
troparion says, destroy death by death.

We are told in the Gospels that it was Christ’s calling of Lazarus from
the dead that was the final affront to the chief priests and rulers of the
people, that having cleansed the lepers, given sight to the blind, made

the lame to walk and the deaf to hear, Jesus’ final crime was to raise
Lazarus from the dead. The raising of Lazarus was not only an affront
to the rulers of the people, but also an affront to death itself, the
cruelest of tyrants. Yet it is in surrendering to death that Christ’s
greatest victory is won. And what a victory it is!

Taken down from the cross, having poured out his own life’s blood
upon his creation, to give it life, Christ descends into the depths of the
earth, into the realm of the dead. And we can almost hear the sound of
the collapse of what was a mighty prison that held the dead of all the
ages. If we are in Church on Friday night to hear the prophecy of
Ezekiel we will share in the prophet’s glorious vision, his vision of
Sheol’s utter destruction.

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and the Lord brought me forth by
the Spirit, and set me in the midst of the plain, and it was full of human
bones...and behold there were very mony on the face of the plain and
they were very dry... And he said to me Son of man, will these bones
live?...Behold I will bring upon you the breath of life... So, I prophesied
as the Lord commanded me. And it came to pass that there was an
earthquake, and the bones come together, bone to bone,... but there
was no life in them.

And so, the Lord caused the spirit or breath to come upon them and
they lived. And the Lord said: Behold I will open your tombs...and I will
bring you up out of your graves... And you will know that I am the Lord,
when I have opened your graves and I will put my Spirit within you and
you shall live. The destruction of death was announced yesterday as Lazarus came
forth from his tomb. Israel welcomed her king, a king she does not
understand. She looked for an earthly king who will be victorious over
Roman oppression. But God's plan is so much greater than the limited

human vision of a few zealots who desire to be freed from enslavement
to other humans. Christ came for much more. He came to free all
mankind from enslavement to death. And so, let us all today raise our
palms and branches and greet our king, not an earthly king who
promises a temporal kingdom, but the Lord himself, mighty and strong,
who comes to give us life and life in abundance.