Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Christ's Entry into Jerusalem -- Wihelm Morgner (1891-1917)

Liturgy of the Palms
    Liturgy of the Passion
    In line with modern practice, the Sunday universally known as Palm Sunday now has two names. Strictly, it is called ‘The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday’. This is because, uniquely, there are two Gospel readings on one day. The first – in the Liturgy of the Palms – recounts Jesus ‘triumphal’ entry into Jerusalem, that bright moment when children waving palm branches led him – fleetingly -- to be hailed as king. The second, the long Gospel usually read or sung by several voices, recounts the dark sequence of events that followed – betrayal, abandonment, intense physical pain, humiliation and finally death. Holy Week is framed by this narrative. It is taken from Matthew, Mark or Luke (this year is Mark), and then repeated on Good Friday (always in John’s version). The days in between are set aside for sustained meditation on the meaning of Christ’s passion, an opportunity to help us understand the full significance of the Resurrection properly.

    Grunewald's Mocking of Christ
    The Palm Sunday readings are unusual in another respect too. The Old Testament (from Isaiah) and Epistle (from Philippians) are the same every year. In different ways they both underline an important fact. The significance of death on the Cross is not to be found primarily in the terrible suffering it involved. History tells of many heroes who died painful deaths struggling gloriously for what they believed to be right. This is not Christ’s Passion. Indeed, it is the precise opposite of a heroic death. Jesus died in the most shameful and humiliating way that the ancient world was able to devise, and did nothing to defend himself.

    Isaiah makes this the ultimate test of faith. ‘I shall not be put to shame’ because ‘it is the Lord GOD who helps me’. Paul finds still deeper theological significance in the ignominy of it all. It is precisely because Jesus ‘humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ that God so ‘highly exalted him’ and gave him ‘the name that is above every name’. This might seem like some horrible sadism on God’s part, until we remember that ‘God was in Christ’ reconciling Himself to the world. Here is the spectacular, and perplexing, truth that the Resurrection confirms. It is in the figure of the humiliated, unheroic Jesus that the Source of Life, and hence the sacred, is to be seen most clearly.
    Heads of Judas and Peter - Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo Da Vinci -- Judas and Peter

    Astride the colt and claimed as King
    that Sunday morning in the spring,
    He passed a thornbush flowering red
    that one would plait to crown his head.

    He passed a vineyard where the wine
    was grown for one of royal line,
    and where the dregs were also brewed
    into a gall for Calvary’s rood.

    A purple robe was cast his way,
    then caught, and kept until that day
    when, with its use, a trial would be
    profaned into a mockery.

    His entourage was forced to wait
    to let a timber through the gate,
    a shaft that all there might have known
    would be an altar and a throne.
    Marie J Post (American hymn writer 1919-1990)

    No comments:

    Post a Comment