But how did it come to this—yet again? We marched in triumph with palm fronds, spreading our garments before him, into the Holy City of Jerusalem (in a more imaginary way than usual because of the rain). But instead of a celebration, we’ve come to an execution. With giddy anticipation we came back to this place, only to find ourselves witness to a crucifixion.
Cries of “hosanna in the highest” mutated to “crucify him.” And we did. According to the script, the ancient script, we put him to death–again. In our very broken and confused humanity, we, too, crucified him. It’s a terrible reversal, an upheaval: the world in convulsions again.
It’s Palm Sunday—we do this all over again every year. And then, as if we can hardly believe what we’ve done, we pause, back up, and re-play in slow motion during the course of a week. By this time next week we’ll know how it all ends up, but for now we pretend we don’t know. Like children hearing a favorite story yet again, we pretend we don’t know how it all ends.
This monastery, as you know, has been undergoing extensive renovation—it’s beginning to look like the building we know and love, only better. The work began with opening up walls all over the place: first, to see what was there behind the walls, then to fix it. The inner workings needed to be exposed first, then repaired—wires, pipes, conduits, ductwork and such. First, everything corrupt, broken, frayed, inadequate or simply nonexistent needed to be exposed.
Palm Sunday is a bit like that first breaking open of the walls to see what lies beneath the surface. Today we ourselves are opened up to see what’s inside, what’s in need of repair, what needs renovation. We’re exposed—inside and out. Joy, exaltation, recognition of everything good, noble, beautiful and true–Hosanna in the highest! Love himself is worshiped as He enters Jerusalem. Love himself, riding in grace and truth, is worshiped as he enters the city–palm fronds and flowers, garments spread upon the roadway.
But then, as the story unfolds, the sordid cavalcade of our confused and broken humanity. Greed (thirty silver pieces worth of greed). Betrayal (not one, but two disciples’ worth of betrayal). False witness. The wanton cruelty of soldiers at their gruesome games. The raw contempt and blood lust of a crowd gone mad. Serpentine conspiracies of the priests of God. A whole city possessed—possessed and under occupation by Death and his minions.
But Love, Love knowing what Love knows, stares back without blinking. And, in another great reversal, Love takes upon himself all that Death and his legions can offer.
For the time being, we pretend we don’t know how it all ends. Actually, the way it ends is more of a beginning, the death is more of a birth…but let’s not jump ahead. For the time being, we reflect on our own hearts, we reflect on our own participation in the sordid cavalcade of the human condition. We break through the walls of our souls to see what needs to be fixed, what needs to be replaced, re-designed, added on to. We ponder the ways we need to be restored, renewed, renovated, recreated—born again.
Palm Sunday exposes our need: we too are complicit in the violence, the betrayal, the cruelty of the story. But if we are complicit in the crowd’s broken and confused humanity, we are also taken up into the greater mystery of what we shall witness. What we shall soon see of God’s doings on the morning of the third day, on the first day of the week, the day of creation. The day when the spirit hovers over the chaos and tumult and upheaval of this earth—hovering, breathing and caressing the face of the Beloved.
But for now, we linger here. Near the foot of a cross, we linger–and a great stone lies across the door of a new tomb. We linger quietly. As we wait, we wonder. We wonder about the whispering breath we seem to hear. The whispering that speaks to our wondering ears: “you are my beloved, with whom I am well pleased–watch with me and wait.”
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