Conrad Pepler 0.P. Palm Sunday
Hosannas from the people of God
Matthew c.21 vv 1-11; Mark c11 vv1-10; Luke c19vv 28-40; John c 12 vv 12-16.
1 11F WHOLE of Sacred Scripture centres on this week, leading to these events, fulfilled in them or developing from them. The readings are therefore numerous and overflowing with divine revelation for the people of God. Above all the reading of the Passion is an overwhelming experience. However to keep within the limits of this column only the reading of the gospel for the blessing of the palms will be considered here. If all four accounts of our Lord's messianic entry into Jerusalem are considered (and anyone of them may be chosen) a clearer picture of this tremendous event will emerge.
It seems likely that ourt Lord chose a day for this entry not immediately preceding his suffering and death, but associated rather with one of two Hebrew festivals — Tabernacles or the Dedication of the Temple. The latter was instituted to celebrate the cleansing and rededication of the Temple in the days of the Maccabees, in December 164 BC, w hien might account for the fact that the Synoptics (as distinct from John) place this entry into Jerusalem immediately before our Lord's own cleansing of the Temple.
The feast of Tabernacles has a longer history, being the harvest festival, and the most exuberant and exciting of all the feasts. Both have their roots in human nature itself, flowing from the recognition of man's dependence on God for life and fertility, looking back on the fruits they have gathered from the earth, the divine gifts, and forward to the repetition of these gifts through the intermediaries of life-giving water and the seed which w ill provide life for the coming year.
These processions, therefore, were celebrated with great enthusiasm and excitements, the people waving green branches, praising the author of lift with their Hosannas and carrying water from the brook, the branches and the water to be thrown round the altar when they reach the Temple. It was at once fr protestation -of gratitude and a prayer for the renewal of these gifts in the future. 'Hosanna' originally meant 'Lord save, or help (us)', an early form of 'Kyrie eleison'. before it became a general acclamation of praise. It is interesting to note how the spirit of the occasion was carried on into the Christian liturgy; the old Dominican processional instructed the brethren, carrying their palms on this day, to conclude the ceremony by casting the palms round the foot of the high altar.
Our Lord coming down from the Mount of Olives is welcomed as King and messiah by his disciples and the people of Jerusalem with branches of olives and palms. But his mount is not
some royal arab stallion, but the humblest of the beasts of burden.
For royalty it should not however have carried any other person, so it is a donkey's foal and its mother must come too in order to keep her colt calm in the excitement. The command to the owners is simple, and accepted at once: 'The Lord has need of them'. The people fling their clothes over the colt, and on the ground too together with the branches for the Lord to ride over them. The crowd shouts the acclamation: 'Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'. One commentator describing the feast of Tabernacles says, 'There was dancing by pious men with torches in their hands. A delight ful scene, mirrored perhaps by dancing disciples who "began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the niighty works they had seen."
Certainly this is a royal progress and an instinctive recog nition of the author of life. Yet even before he has entered the city the Lord is weeping over it: "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace." The gospels do not tell us what the disciples made of this
sudden change of mood. But those closest to him knew that he had set his face to go up to Jerusalem and were vageuly
are of what that determination . might mean.
Before the recent reforms the Mum)/ was more significant. When the procession arrived at the Church door two singerts entered, closed the doiors and began to sing "Gloria laus — Glory, praise and honour to you 0 Christ, Redeemer, King." Outside the crowd took up the refrain and eventually the doors were opened and they processed inside singing: As our Lord entered the holy city the Hebrew
children • declared the reesurrection of life, and the procession concluded with the prayer of the Passion. Here the church itself represented first our Lord himself and then Jerusalem and the worshippers were left to join in our Lord's tears. These signs spoke to the heart and led to a deeper appreciation of the mysteries.
—The new-liturgy develop a new feeling for the events. Stiffing if possible from another church the congregation is encouraged to sing joyfully as they wave their blessed branches of palm, yew or 'pussy willow'. They are moving from the mount of Olives towards Jerusalem and joining the 'Hebrew children' in their loud and excited acclamations. Yet often the enthusiasm and excitement are not very evident. The signs are perhaps not appreciated at depth. Our Hosannas should surely be as vociferous as on the first Palm Sunday. The dictionary describes an 'acclamation' as a 'shout of applause'. Such noises are not often heard in our religious processions or in our churches.