Since writing a book about Christmas, I have become more and more aware of all the events of the Church calendar and how they can feed our soul. There is a certain wisdom and rhythm to living in the cycle of these annual events that can give richness and meaning to our lives as each of us, in community, continue to peel back the layers of God’s Divine plan.
However, it can seem very odd to the newcomer of these traditions, to participate in the celebration of Palm Sunday, just as Passion week begins.
Why should we celebrate and what is it we are joyful about as Jesus approaches his hour of suffering?
How can I find a place in the crowd that surrounded him that day when I feel only contempt for their fickle earthbound nature?
But this is what we are told to do none the less:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughters of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey” Zechariah 9:9
Therefore, at Palm Sunday we rejoice. We rejoice because of all the beautiful crafting of events that lead us into a deeper awareness of the nature of God’s plan for us. God knew what it would take to transform our hearts—to transform us from our self-centered ways. He knew that he would have to be very different…radical, and so…. he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey; not a war-horse, but a donkey…a symbol of peace.
See him in this painting as he weeps for Jerusalem.
“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you had only known on this day what would bring you peace….” Luke 19:41-42
This painting reminds us that Jesus knew the plan and he too had a heart for the mission. And so I ask:
Where are you this Palm Sunday?
Are you in the crowd viewing Jesus from a distance?
Are you concerned about the riot the crowd is causing?
or are you coming out of your safe place…letting others see that you are “like-minded” with Christ?
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness, And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2: 6-8
Since my Palm Sunday reflections are colliding this week with my Beethoven lesson in the classroom, I am inspired to use as our closing prayer this poem by Schiller called “Ode to Joy.” These are the original words, translated from the German, that Beethoven used as the text and inspiration for his great 9th Symphony. Amazing when you realize he gave us such a positive uplifting gift such as this, but was unable to hear the music he had so profoundly felt.
Listen to the tone of these words. Allow them to urge you onward to feelings of victory as we approach and view the passion of our Lord.
From Beethoven’s 9th Symphony:
Oh friends, not these sounds!
Let us instead strike up more pleasing
and more joyful ones!
Joy, beautiful spark of the divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter your sanctuary, burning with fervour,
O heavenly being!
Your magic brings together
what custom has sternly divided.
All men shall become brothers,
wherever your gentle wings hover.
Whoever has been lucky enough
to become a friend to a friend,
Whoever has found a beloved wife,
let him join our songs of praise!
Yes, and anyone who can call one soul
his own on this earth!
Any who cannot, let them slink away
from this gathering in tears!
Every creature drinks in joy
at nature’s breast;
Good and Bad alike
follow her trail of roses.
She gives us kisses and wine,
a true friend, even in death;
Even the worm was given desire,
and the cherub stands before God.
Gladly, just as His suns hurtle
through the glorious universe,
So you, brothers, should run your course,
joyfully, like a conquering hero.
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!
Brothers, above the canopy of stars
must dwell a loving father.
Do you bow down before Him, you millions?
Do you sense your Creator, o world?
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.