Palm Sunday is the commemoration of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. The Triumphal Entry marks the beginning of the Holy Week which culminates in Easter. As the event is reported in the Gospel: “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.” (Matt. 21:7-8). John, whose Gospel was more theological and interpretative specifically identified the tree branches as palm and mentioned their holding the palm branches instead of spreading them on the road (Jn 12:12-13). 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 materialized 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). 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), before his great victory at the Milvian Bridge just outside Rome. Thus, the christogram “IHS” on priests’ stoles and church cloths stands both for “In Hoc Signo” and the first three letters of “Jesus” in Latinized Greek (IHSOVS). Jesus is the victory sign. In him, victory is assured. Ours is not a decisive war. Jesus has already fought and won the battle. In the strength of this, we march forth to victory.
Jesus indicated that there would be many trials and sorrows for his followers. But he urged us to be of good cheers since he had overcome the world (John 16:33). Paul taught that it was through many tribulations that we enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). So, Christians should not be shaken by sufferings (1Thess. 3:3; Acts 11:23). Suffering is an essential part of Christianity (Mt 10:38; 16:24; 2Tim. 3:12) but the end result of it all would be joyful (Lk 22:28-29; Rom 8:17; 2Tim 2:11-12). “Yes, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2Tim. 3:12). The world and its corrupt systems is designed to cause frustration, misery, and failure. Life could be bumpy, with intense trials, challenges, and persecutions. But, assured of victory in Christ, we have peace over crises and in the face of adversity. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye will have tribulation; but be of good cheer I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
“Yet in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For …neither death nor life, nor principalities nor powers… nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39).
It’s Palm Sunday, proclaiming Victory, even as the week of Passion is launched. There is no cause for alarm in any critical situation we find ourselves. The scourge, presently, is the Corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic. We should not panic because our Lord will surely keep us and we will see the end of it. It came, and will go, even soon. After Good Friday, there will surely be Easter.
VICTORY IS ASSURED!