LAHORE: The church choir sang a beautiful hymn as the children of St Andrew’s Church Sunday School, dressed in long robes and head dresses, waved palm fronds and re-enacted Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Several churches across the city held tableaux as part of Palm Sunday services to mark the beginning of Holy Week, the lead up to Easter, for Christians.
The congregations of several churches walked to the churches in small processions. Many of the participants had pinned small crucifix badges made of palm leaves and waved palm fronds shouting “Hosanna to the Highest”. All churches were decorated with palm fronds.
The largest Palm Sunday service in the city was held at the Cathedral on The Mall where Bishop Alexander John Malik gave the sermon at the English service and Pastor Ernest Christopher at the Urdu service. Over a thousand people attended both services, Cathedral Dean Reverend Shahid Meraj said.
Palm fronds were taped to each pew at the St Andrew’s Church where Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali gave the Sunday sermon. He read Matthew 21:1-11, also known as the Liturgy of the Palms. The passage details Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on a colt. Nazir-Ali spoke about how the crowds that gathered to make way for Christ placed palm fronds and their cloaks on the path the colt trod on, shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” A few days later, many of those in this crowd would be present before Pontius Pilate demanding that Christ be crucified, he said.
Reverend Meraj said Christ’s entry into Jerusalem is significant for Christians everywhere because the Jews anticipating the Messiah had pictured a warrior king who would save them from the Roman Empire. “Yet Jesus entered Jerusalem, the very picture of humility and gave a message of peace,” he said. The Bible speaks of turning the other cheek, Nazir-Ali said.
He recalled a recent trip to north Nigeria where an entire village had been torched. “The people there were distraught and said they had run out of cheeks to turn,” he said. He said he had told them that while they should not raise their hands to protect themselves, the Bible called on people to defend the weak and the infirm.
Christians across the country will observe the coming week in prayer and fast. Prayer meetings to “trace Christ’s path to Calvary”, that is, remember Christ’s sufferings and fast, will be held in several churches across the city this week. It will be followed by Good Friday, Sunrise Service at around 5am and Easter Service next Sunday.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2015.
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