On 4 April 2015, thousands of faithful and 750 priests participated in the traditional Palm Sunday pilgrimage unfolded in Bucharest.
Blessing of the willow branches and beginning of the pilgrimage
The pilgrimage began at Radu Voda Monastery, after the Vesper service celebrated at 14.30 hours in the church monastery of Bucharest founded by prince Radu. To end with, His Grace Timotei Prahoveanul, Assistant Bishop to the Archdiocese of Bucharest blessed the willow branches saying the proper prayer at 16.00 hours.
Then, His Grace and the servant priests shared the willow branches and about 16.15 started the procession taking the following route: Radu Voda St., Marasesti Bd., Dimitrie Cantemir Bd., Bibescu Voda St., Serban Voda St.
The pilgrimage began with the “toaca” beaten in rhythm (wooden board beaten with wooden hammers in a certain rhythm), followed by monks and deacons carrying crosses and religious banners. There followed the group of priests, willow branches in their hands, shared on deaneries (deanery sector 1, deanery sector 2, deanery sector 3, deanery sector 4, deanery sector 5, deanery sector 6 of Bucharest, deanery Ilfov North and Ilfov South), the priests of charity of Bucharest (hospitals, old people’s homes, military units, prisons and cemeteries), rev professors of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology of Bucharest, as well as counsellors, eparchial and patriarchal vicars. Then, the icon of the Feast of the Entrance into Jerusalem was carried by shoulders by the clergy of Deaneries of Sectors III and IV of Bucharest, accompanied by 6 nuns from Pasarea Monastery, smoking pots in their hands. There followed His Grace Timotei prahoveanul, Assistant Bishop to the Archdiocese of Bucharest, the chorus of the Orthodox Theological Seminary of Bucharest, the seminary students, and the thousands of faithful, willow branches in their hands, who ended the procession.
During the pilgrimage the singers and faithful sang together: Palm Sunday troparion; God is with us; Your Chamber, Saviour, etc.
Liturgical time at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Spiridon the New – patriarchal chapel
The first stop was at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Spiridon the New – patriarchal chapel. The servant priests of the Metropolitan Cathedral met the procession in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral. A threefold litany was said here, and His Grace said the 2nd condac of the Akathistos of the Entrance into Jerusalem.
Liturgical time at Saint Catherine church, chapel of the Faculty of Theology
Then, the procession went for the church of Saint Catherine, chapel of the Faculty of Theology of “Patriarch Justinian”, of Bucharest on the following route: Principatele Unite St., Ienachita Vacarescu St., Saint Catherine St. When arriving in front of the university chapel of Saint Catherine, the procession was met by all the members of the teaching staff (clergy and laics) of “Patriarch Justinian” Faculty of Theology of Bucharest, the priests of Saint Catherine church, and by the students accommodated at the Faculty’s hostel. A threefold litany and a short prayer were said again in front of the place of worship protected by Saint Catherine. Then, they all left for the Patriarchal Cathedral.
End of the pilgrimage on the Joy Hill
When arriving at the Patriarchate Hill, the stanza of the 6th voice was sung: Today the grace of the Holy Spirit called us and, all carrying your cross we say: Blessed You are, the One who come in the name of the Lord; Hosanna, to the One in the highest.
The pilgrims were met at the Patriarchal Cathedral by His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, together with His Grace Varlaam Ploiesteanul, Assistant Bishop to the Patriarch and Secretary to the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and His Grace Ieronim Sinaitul, Assistant Bishop to the Patriarch.
Here, His Grace Varlaam Ploiesteanul read the condac XIII of the Akathistos of the Entrance into Jerusalem.
After the threefold Litany, His Grace Ieronim Sinaitul said the blessing prayer of the icon of the feast of the Entrance into Jerusalem. Then, His Grace blessed the icon of the feast of the Entrance into Jerusalem taken in procession today.
Then, His Grace Timotei Prahoveanul said the prayer for blessing the pilgrims.
Blessing sermon for the pilgrims present at the Joy Hill
To end with the pilgrimage, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel delivered a sermon for the thousands of pilgrims present at the Joy Hill, underling the importance of the feast of the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday).
“We wish to remind you the fact that this Palm Sunday Pilgrimage is a common confession in procession of our Orthodox faith, a liturgical commemoration of the event of the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem after He resurrected his friend Lazarus from the dead, in Bethany. This wonder of the Resurrection of Lazarus who had been dead for 4 days showed the divinity of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, and the enthusiasm of the crowds for Him. The people came to meet Him when He was going to Jerusalem and sang Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. This love of the people for Jesus Christ who made lots of wonders, healed a lot of sick people, fed the hungry, raised lots of people from sins and passions, brought about the hate and envy of the scholars and Pharisees who thought to kill Jesus. This is why the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem, although in triumph, is an entrance to passion, sufferance, crucifixion and death, but the third day He will be risen from the dead, as He had already said many times long time before. Thus, the Saturday of Lazarus preceding the Feast of the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem shows us that we are going to reach the Holy Week of the Holy Passions of Jesus Christ, our Lord. After 40 days of fasting which ended with the Vesper service of the last Friday (3 April 2015), there follow two days, Saturday of Lazarus and the Palm Sunday, as days of passage to a period somehow one of a kind, namely the Holy Week of the Holy Passions.
Every day of the Holy Week is called Holy and Great. All these days show us that the Saving Passions of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, for our salvation took place this week. This is why we have finished somehow the fasting, the period of asceticism. A mystagogical fasting follows now of common sufferance with Christ, so that we should resurrect together with Him. Every day of the Holy Great Week is a mysterious following of Christ in prayer, through the obedience of the Holy Scriptures, of the Holy Services and especially through Repentance and Holy Communion. The most significant communication is the one of the Holy Great Thursday because it was on the Holy Great Thursday that Christ, our Lord, instituted the Holy Eucharist, the Last Supper. This entrance into the Holy Week of the Holy Passions of the Saviour is prepared now through the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. Yet, the resurrection of Lazarus is an anticipation of the Universal Resurrection. But the resurrection of Lazarus has also shown the fact that Christ, Who resurrected Lazarus would resurrect His own humanity from death. This is why the significance of this day is very great and we already have in our souls, from tomorrow’s feast of the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem forward, the foretaste of the joy of the Resurrection. We shall pass through the Week of the Holy Passions, but the spiritual target of this week is already established, namely the Resurrection, the Pascal joy. We thank all the priests and faithful who gathered in such a large number here, at this pilgrimage. We thank the monks and nuns of the monasteries who joined this communion in procession and, certainly, Their Graces Assistant Bishops, especially His Grace Assistant Bishop Timotei Prahoveanul who headed this pilgrimage. We wish you all the blessing of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, and may His grace and love for humans be in all our parishes, monasteries, and institutions and houses of the faithful who participated today in this beautiful pilgrimage which is an icon of the joy of the Holy Easter on this beautiful spring day, for the glory of God and for our salvation”, His Beatitude said.
The faithful present at this pilgrimage received little icons of the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem on behalf of His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel.
In Bucharest, the Palm Sunday pilgrimage was forbidden by the communist regime in 1948, and resumed in 2008 at the initiative and with the blessing of His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel.