Sunday, 16 March 2008

Palm Sunday

Okay, let's get this over with. As you know, I am a lifelong practising Catholic. I love everything about my faith. I love the church - the rituals and the traditions, the bells and smells. I love the seasons and the feast days, everything about it really.

Except Holy Week.

This week, which starts today and ends next Saturday.

I know, I know. It's the pinnacle of the faith. It's what the Church is built on. And I absolutely dread it, every single year.

Ever since I was a little girl, Christ's Passion has horrified me. When we were learning about it at school, I would put my fingers in my ears and pray that it would end soon. And that feeling never went away. I'm not a little girl any longer, but I still feel the same. For me, it is the worst week of the year, and I cannot wait until it is over.

I found this Palm Sunday reflection here. It's longer than my usual posts, but I urge you to read it.

After spending the last few weeks in the desert of Lent, suddenly we find ourselves in an oasis, clutching long leaves of palms.But like so many things you see after being in the desert, it’s a mirage. What we see, or think we see, is about to shift before our eyes. Soon enough, the palms will be whips. The leaves will be thorns. Jubilation will become jeers. That is the paradox and the mystery of Holy Week.

The liturgies of this week are powerful and primal. In the days to come, there is silence and smoke, fire and water, shadow and light. We are a part of something both ancient and new, and what we do this week reminds us of that. The altar will be stripped. The cross will be venerated. The tabernacle will be emptied. The Blessed Sacrament will be moved. Bells will be stilled.And yet here we stand, at the gates to Jerusalem, palms in our hands and hosannas on our lips, beginning the arduous trek to Calvary.

This week, take the time to wonder about what we are doing, and what we are remembering.For close to two thousand years, we have gathered like this, in places like this, to light candles and chant prayers and read again the ancient stories of our deliverance and redemption.

But are we aware of what we are doing? Do we understand what it means? Do we realize the price that was paid? A proper accounting is impossible. The ledger—His life, for our souls—seems woefully unbalanced. So try this. This week, take a moment in each day that passes to wonder: What was He doing during this time of that one week all those centuries ago? What was crossing His mind on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday? What sort of anguish? What kind of dread?

Has anything we have ever worried about, or lost sleep over, or agonized about, even come close? He was a man like us in all things but sin. He must have been terrified, His mind buzzing with questions. Long after the others had drifted off to sleep, did He stay awake and worry? Maybe He sat up alone, late at night, whittling a piece of wood, the way His father had taught Him, until a splinter sliced His skin, drawing a rivulet of blood. He might have flinched and thought: Well, this is nothing. And still it stings. How intense would the pain of death become? How long would it last? How much humiliation would He be forced to endure, stripped and bleeding? And: What about His mother? Is there anything He could do to spare her from this?

As you shop for Easter baskets and dye, think of this. Ponder this. Wonder about it. Make it a kind of prayer.And then, remember what we are doing, and why.

Because, of all the calendars in all of human history, this is the week that changed the world.

Originally published in the bulletin of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church, Forest Hills, New York,
on April 9, 2006
(Palm Sunday)


Adrienne said...

Thank you

Kitty said...

I once wrote a blog post called 'Is Confession Good for the Soul?' which was an obtuse reference to Catholicism. I think it's very difficult for those of us who weren't brought up in the Faith to fully comprehend the enormity of its importance in the lives of those who embrace it.

This was an interesting and thought-provoking post for me. Thank you. x

Renae said...

Oh, dear Jackie. Usually, you make me laugh. Today, you have made me cry. You are so right - we need to remember. We need to know.

It is too easy to focus on Easter - the celebration that He conquered death. But can we really appreciate that He is risen, if we don't at least try to understand what He went through and why?

I am like you. I don't like to think about it. But just as He said to his disciples at the last supper, "Do this in remembrance of me," we need to remember.

Thank you for reminding us.


Maggie May said...

I have just watched part one of The Passion on BBC1. It is on every night till episode 4.I hope to watch all of them.
I am not a Catholic but go to a Baptist Church. I feel sad about what Jesus went through, but if he hadn't, there would be no faith & he did it for all of us! it is good to go to Church on Easter Sunday, when the mood has changed!

CrazyCath said...

Poignant. It needs to be remembered daily. Not just yearly. His sacrifice, his pain, all for us.

But yearly is better than not at all. ;0)
Thanks for 'grounding' us.

Swearing Mother said...

Thanks for that, a good thought provoking post.

Journey of Truth said...

That was loads of beautiful.

Amrita said...

This is what Christ had to go thru to procure our salvation. Without His passion and crucifixion and triumph over death our faith would be useless. That 's why the Bible says Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth...and God was pleased to bruise Him.

The easter bunnies undermine the truth of the cross I don 't like the cross to be replaced by bunnies and eggs.

KitBrookside said...

I feel exactly the same way. I can't stand Palm Sunday Mass (waiting for the bolt to strike me) for the same reasons you state, going back to being a little girl and refusing to speak the words "Crucify him!" aloud. Still don't. When the 10 year old (a.k.a., "Therese" and "Our Lady of Fatima") was 7, her older sister participated in a school production of the "living stations" as Veronica, and then one of the Romans doing the nailing. At the first hammering sound, the younger one screamed at her sister at the top of her lungs to "STOP STOP STOP IT!!!" became hysterical, and her teacher had to carry her out and console her for over an hour.

Frog in the Field said...

Very well written and thought provoking. I fear no-one really remembers the stuff behind these festivals anymore.
Five daughters?? Gasp!

Beth said...

Thank you for sharing this. I will be pondering this all week long.

I was the exact opposite of you. I remember the readings at Easter and thinking,"that's nice, no big deal". The Bible doesn't go into much detail about the actual pain and suffering of Christ. (And I didn't do any extra studying to learn about it either.)

But then I saw "The Passion of the Christ" and was horrified. I felt embarrassment by previously thinking "no big deal" and then I felt shame for all of my whining and complaining about all the little 'problems' in my life.

Again...thanks for giving us all something to think about this week!

Daryl E said...

That was fascinating .. as a Jew I really knew little of the 'history' of this week ..

Cheryl said...

What a great post. Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes I get to caught up in my self. I hate to think of the pain HE went through, but it was real. Love your blog. God Bless~

:..Rebekah..: said...

How beautiful and thoughtful. Thank you.

ExpatKat said...

Thought provoking post. I've always felt the same about the whole crucifixion thing. The physical pain freaks me out. What's 'Good' about ending up like that on a friday.
Thanks for reminding us about the sacrifice He made.

qualcosa di bello said...

brava, jackie! & that is precisely why i felt the need to be offline for last week. it is an overwhelming thing when we let ourselves consider it.

disa said...