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I was glad to think that when I went to Vespers on the eve of Palm Sunday, I would be receiving a Palm. One thing about the Orthodox is they, like the Jews, begin their day the evening before so, in Orthodox thinking, Saturday night was Palm Sunday. That meant I would get a blessed Palm.
Now, how is a blessed palm any different from a protestant, non-blessed palm? If you would have asked me that years ago, I would have said no difference at all but, as I progress in Orthodoxy, I see that my thinking is changing. On Sunday, I went to my protestant church, where, at the end of the service, the kids handed out palms to all the exiting parishioners. The Palms were not used in the service at all as a means of worship; rather, handed out at the end as a sort of reminder or the day. This is in direct contrast to Vespers where, as part of the Worship service, Father Gary sprinkled holy water on all the palms, making them, I suppose, a vehicle of Grace. (If I got the theology wrong here, someone please correct me).
In my protestant church, after the kids handed out the palms, they had a lot of left overs so, kids being kids, started fashioning them into headbands, belts and whips, running around playing ninja and, to be honest, looking cute. The lady usher thought they looked cute as well and, smiling, she commented to me, "If this were a Catholic Church, they'd be having a heart attack."
I think sheis right and I believe they wouldn't look too kindly at it either at an Orthodox Church. The usher made her comment with the attitude that the Catholic Church would have been wrong (and dare I say, too stuffy) to prohibit such play. In one sense, she is right. Since the Protestant world view doesn't really allow for any matter being used as a means of Grace (Communion and Baptism are, to them, merely symbolic), it can be said that the kids running around playing with palms were... just playing with palms -They were not playing with anything Holy. How can they be blamed with handling sacred objects as toys if the sacred objects aren't sacred?
But, at Vespers, when Fr. Gary sprinkled Holy Water on everyone's Palms, I realized that this could be something on par with an Icon- something that could point me to Heaven. At least, that is how I am treating it. Again, if my theology is wrong, please let me know. So I imagine Orthodox kids weren't encouraged to play ninja with the Palms.
This is Holy Week and I am on Vacation. I have a lot of business to take care of regarding my son going to college next year but I want to make some time to attend some of the upcoming services. So, pray for me.
Just a note, on May 12th, it will be one full year that I started attending Orthodox Church services. (I began on Vespers of Ascension Thursday). It has always been a Vespers service and I hope to visit a Divine Liturgy soon.
Have a blessed Holy Week!