Archive for March, 2012

Across the Threshold

March 30th, 2012    |    No Comments »

This Sunday—Palm Sunday—marks the beginning of Holy Week, and to symbolically enter this most important season of the Christian year, the Armenian Church performs the “Turun-Patzek” service at the end of the liturgy: the “Opening of the Doors.”

The great hymn of “Turun-Patzek” is “Zoghormootyan ko uztoorun.” Here are the beautiful, inspiring words of that hymn:

“Open to us, O Lord, the door of your mercy, and make us worthy of your dwellings of light, together with your saints. Receive us also, O Savior, into your mansions prepared for your saints, and inscribe our names in the Book of Life. O great judge, when you sit in the judgment seat, spare your creatures through the prayers of the holy saints.”

These are the words we sing as a church, before literally crossing the threshold into Holy Week. We stand at the doorway having experienced Great Lent, during which we have prepared ourselves—body, mind, and soul—to experience the events of this week alongside our Lord: his triumphant entry, his passion, his death, and finally—miraculously—his glorious resurrection.

We recall that the original Palm Sunday was an international event: Jerusalem was filled with worshippers from around the world, who had descended on the city to observe the Jewish feast of Passover. So when Jesus made his entry into the holy city, he was literally doing so on a world stage—anticipating the words he would give to his apostles just before his Ascension:

“Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe whatever I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19).

In this sense, Christ’s ministry to all mankind—to all nations—reached a critical moment on Palm Sunday. Previously he had never ventured more than a couple of hundred miles from the place of his birth. But now, our Lord was publically making it known that his message was to be heard throughout the world. And all of the dramatic, world-changing events of Holy Week are part and parcel of that message.

But the Armenian Turun-Patzek hymn reminds us that Christ’s message was directed beyond even the limits of the physical world. For the true gates that he opened that week were the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Open the door of your mercy, Lord, and make us worthy of your dwellings of light…,” we sing. “Receive us into the mansions prepared for your saints, and write our names in the Book of Life…”

That is the eternal kingdom which Christ opened to us. Indeed, Christ himself is the doorway to that kingdom, as he teaches us in the gospel:

“I am the door,” he said: “if any man enters in by me, he shall be saved” (Jn 10:9).

It is through his sacrifice and victory over death that Christ has cleared the way for us to obtain salvation, so that we, too, might join him in God’s kingdom.

Finally, there is one other set of doors that Christ is knocking on. They are the doors of the human heart. In our badarak, we recite the Psalm that commands:

“Lift up your head, O you gates; and be lifted up, you everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in” (Psalm 24:7).

This should remind us that the King of Glory—in Armenian, “Takavor Parats”—is always knocking on the doors of our hearts, making himself known to us, urging us to let him enter. He will not force himself on us—Christ honors our free will, and leaves the choice to us whether to open up to him or close the door.

But he will never stop knocking. Some people can turn away and ignore him. Others can lose the sound of Christ’s knocking in the noisy culture around us. But for us, as Armenians and Christians, our celebration of the badarak each week, and especially of Palm Sunday and the Easter cycle, is our eternal reminder that Christ stands at the door, ready to enter—in triumph—and establish his kingship in our hearts.

When he enters our hearts, Christ may move quietly and humbly—as he did when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But he is unstoppable. He is determined to work in us and through us—if we let him do so. He offers himself universally, to all the people of the world, to any¬one who will accept his authority. He leads us into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thus, Palm Sunday is the story not only of God’s presence among us, but more importantly, it is the story of His loving outreach to us. May that thought guide us through the coming week, and open our hearts to Christ’s call.

Christ's entry into Jerusalem (14th-century manuscript by Tserun Tsaghkogh).