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Mar 25, 2018

Passion Play: Two Faces in the Shadows

Passion Play: Two Faces in the Shadows

Passage: Mark 11:1-10

Speaker: Pastor Chris Riedel

Series: Lent & Easter

Category: Resurrection, Lent

Keywords: lent, resurrection


Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
 — Matthew 8:34-36 (NIV)

Growing up, we would attend Palm Sunday service at my mother's Ukrainian church (an Eastern Catholic church of the Byzantine Rite).  The palm fronds that we received in our normal Roman Catholic church were replaced with willow branches.  In the Ukraine, Palm Sunday is sometimes referred to as Flowery Sunday or Willowy Sunday.  The blessing and distribution of willow branches has roots back to pagan times.  Since the willow tree is said to be the first tree to show signs of life after a long winter, it is considered to be a holy tree with its white buds representing resurrection and eternal life.   

Whether you celebrate with palm fronds or willow branches, Palm Sunday is a day of welcoming Jesus into your life and marks the beginning of  Holy Week.  My family enjoyed the many Ukrainian traditions throughout Holy Week which, I suppose, is why we often shifted from Roman to Byzantine Catholic for this one week of the year.  I was taught that Holy Week is a summarized version of Christianity:  on Holy Thursday we are asked to remember Jesus with thanksgiving whenever we break bread.  Good Friday is the suffering, agony, and passion; a day marked with sorrow.  Easter Sunday is all about joy and celebration of the risen Lord.  But what about Holy Saturday? 

We were taught that Holy Saturday represented the single day of greatest faith throughout the liturgical year.  It was a day of sadness and mourning over the events of Good Friday, yet a day when we held hope for the fulfillment of scripture of the risen Lord.  A day of faith, and a day of fasting .  While not eating on Holy Saturday, Ukrainians spent the day preparing wicker baskets to be blessed at the church.  The baskets would be filled with the food that would be served on Easter Sunday:  boiled eggs (representing rebirth), spicy kielbasa (representing generosity), ground horseradish with beets (representing the blood and bitterness of the passion), and - of course - butter molded in the shape of a lamb.  All of the food would be covered with a decorative white linen cloth representing the shroud of Christ.   

As we celebrate Holy Week, let's remember to welcome Christ into our lives each and every day.  Let us also remember to lift our "baskets" of blessings up to Him with joyful thanksgiving and ask Him for continued blessings throughout the year. 


Heavenly, gracious Father, we thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ.  We pray that we welcome Him into our lives each and every day.  We also pray that we lift up our joys, concerns, trials, and tribulations to You in continual prayer and conversation with You.  We are grateful for our family traditions that provide us with a link to our past and, as Christians, an ever-lasting bond to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in whose name we pray.  Amen.

Written by Rich Krygiel. Rich leads one of our men's ministry groups at Arcola Church. He is a devoted husband and father.