Today the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates Palm Sunday, the memory of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Yet it was achieved in great humility: Tell ye the daughter of Zion, “Behold, thy king cometh to thee, meek, sitting on an ass, and the colt of an ass.” (Matt 21: 5) The Bible describes how a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees and strewed them in the way. The multitude cried: “Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the Highest.”
Some of the most joyful Coptic melodies are particular to Palm Sunday. Once the exceptionally beautiful ritual prayers honouring the occasion and Holy Mass are over at noon, the rituals for Passion Week start. Passion Week is a sorrowful time during which the church is cloaked in black and services, which are held several times throughout the day, are characterised by poignant, magnificent melodies. It ends with Good Friday, in memory of the Crucifixion—the completion of the act of Redemption.
The icon on the left is a depiction of Palm Sunday by Youssef Nassif and Bodour Latif. As is usual with their icons, Nassif and Latif’s Entry into Jerusalem is characterised by soft colours and rich formation. The figure of Jesus Christ appears bigger than all others, a symbol of His being King of kings and Lord of lords. The multitude, which fills the space of the icon, includes people of all ages holding tree branches. An air of jubilation prevails; even the ass and colt appear smiling.
The icon on the right is a rendition of the Crucifixion by Hany Sawiris. His is an innovative vision, with the Cross itself enveloped in an oval shape, a symbol of life emerging out of death. The Cross is moreover implanted on the top arch of the globe, with the blood of Jesus pouring down on the Earth, indicating that Christ died to save the whole world.
Jesus extends one arm to the woman, just as she is being devoured by the serpent, to save her and pull her up. What better way to express the Redemption!