Tuesday, April 8, 2014


    Palm Sunday -- Octavio Ocampo

    LITURGY of the PALMS


    Though still commonly called Palm Sunday, in modern liturgical practice the Sunday before Easter Day is referred to as ‘The Sunday of the Passion’. This is because it is the first liturgical observance in the season of Holy Week and Easter when a Gospel narrative of the sufferings (passion) of Jesus is read.  The older title is not lost, however. This Sunday is unique in the Lectionary because it prescribes two Gospels, and the first of these -- for the Liturgy of the Palms – tells the story of Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem for the Passover. Riding on a donkey, and greeted with enthusiasm by a crowd waving palm branches, it is traditionally described as his ‘triumphal entry’.

    It is only once modern worshippers have re-enacted this scene, and taken part in their own procession, that they listen to the Passion narrative – usually read or sung in a dramatic form by a number of different voices. Though this second Gospel, whether in the full or the abbreviated form, is much longer, the first is crucial in establishing the shape of our journey to Easter. On Palm Sunday we begin with triumph, but it is short lived – and hollow. The Bible readings for days that follow in Holy Week reflect the rising tension, and contention, that surrounds Jesus. It culminates, finally, in his betrayal, trial and death.

    Jesus Christ -- Octavio Ocampo
    It is vitally important to see that in this intervening period, his enemies not merely gain the upper hand; in the world’s terms they are also victorious. What better outcome for those who see Jesus as a radical traitor to their faith, and a threat to their political security, than that he should be killed in the brutal way reserved for the worst of criminals? And what greater evidence of his missionary failure, than that his most loyal disciples abandon him in fear and wretchedness, and even deny that they ever knew him?

    It is only when we grasp the depth of the degradation, pain and failure, to which Jesus is subjected, together with the strength of his unwavering obedience to God, that we can understand both the shallowness of his ‘triumphal’ entry on Palm Sunday, and the significance of his Resurrection on Easter Day. By this mighty act God shows where true victory is to be found. It remains, of course, for us to find the grace to long for it.

    Octavio Ocampo (b. 1943) is one of Mexico's most prolific painters.

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