Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Palm and Passion Sunday, Holy Week (Midweek Message)

Palm and Passion Sunday, and Holy Week  
Fr. Tony's Midweek Message
March 21, 2018

Holy Week starts this Sunday. We begin the service with the joyful Liturgy of the Palms, and then continue with the sorrowful reading of the Passion. Some liturgists have called the Palm/Passion Sunday rite the most schizophrenic of all Christian liturgies. This juxtaposition of joyful procession and sorrowful commemoration is intentional. 

G.K Chesterton captured some of the happiness and whimsy of the Palms liturgy in his poem "The Donkey": 

When fishes flew and forests walked
   And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
   Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
   On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
   I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.

From The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton (Dodd Mead & Company, 1927)

The little Jerusalem donkey Jenny, Darcy Jo, will accompany us in the Procession at the 10 a.m. service. In the liturgy, the congregation rejoices and welcomes Jesus as the crowds once did on the steep pathway down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, singing praises. Then, in the Passion reading, traditionally the congregation calls out the words for his execution "Crucify him, crucify him!" This coming Sunday, we will ask the congregation to call out these words. The point is not to shame or point fingers. The point is to accept responsibility for our own part of the human race's corporate misdoings.
 Hymn 458 describes the contemplative truth behind this practice in this way: 

       "He came from his blest throne,
        salvation to bestow,
        But men made strange
        And none the Christ would know... 
        Sometimes they strew His way,
        And His sweet praises sing;
        Resounding all the day
        Hosannas to their King:
        Then "Crucify!"
        Is all their breath,
        And for His death
        They thirst and cry."

Holy Week is one great spiritual journey, and each service is part of that great truth. The Palms and Passion on the Sunday that begins it all, then the Great Three Day Liturgy (Triduum). It is one service spread over three days: Maundy Thursday celebrating the new Commandment to love one another, the Lord's Supper and the Washing of the Feet, the stripping of the altar, and the overnight prayer vigil; Good Friday and the stark grief at our loss of Jesus; the silence and calm of Holy Saturday, and then the Great Vigil of Easter with the New Fire, the reading of salvation history, renewal of baptismal vows, and the first Eucharist of Easter; and then the glories of Easter Sunday. I would invite all to participate in the whole commemoration and celebration, not just parts. We still need people to sign up for middle of the night stages of the Maundy Thursday prayer vigil. 

Grace and Peace,
       Fr. Tony+