Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday

I remember seeing the dried palm fronds draped over a cross in my grandparent's house when I was child... but I never knew what they represented. I'd heard of Palm Sunday & knew it had something to do with Jesus' triumphal entry just days before He died, but I had never seen it celebrated. In the denominations I've been a part of, days like Palm Sunday went unnoticed or at best, got a brief acknowledgement in the form of a single scripture verse.

Today I went to my first Palm Sunday Mass. We met in the fellowship hall to obtain our palm fronds & gathered in a large circle. The music minister led us in "Hosanna in the Highest" by Carl Tuttle... 1 guitar, 1 djembe & 100 or so voices rang out. It kind of felt like church camp. The priest & deacon approached the front in their striking red vestments & sang with us. We exchanged the standard greetings, prayed & heard Mark 11:1-10. Then the priest & the deacon came into the crowd with a bowl of water & an evergreen branch. We were blessed with Holy water & everyone crossed themselves as the priest passed by. Eventually we candidates & elect walked out singing behind the priest, deacon, the music ministers & our RCIA director. The music faded as the rest of the congregation followed us into the church. The crucifix used in the procession was covered with a purple cloth, as well as the statue of the Virgin Mary. Covering images is tradition during this Holy week, but I don't remember why. The altar was covered in a bright red cloth with the typical white cloth over that... Candles glowed in their golden lamp stands, anticipating what came next.

Mass continued with the normal readings from the OT, Psalms & NT, but then came the Gospel narrative of "The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Mk 14:1- 15:47). Its a play of sorts.. The priest, the deacon & a lector were each miked & stood at opposite sides of the altar. And we, the congregation, were not exempt- we had parts to play as well. This was surreal to me, to suddenly become a participant instead of a spectator. The lector narrated & the priest played Jesus. The deacon played all manner of people & we, the people, played the crowd & other random bits. All of this was laid out in the missal & we simply followed along. When we got to the part where the crowd (that's us) had to say "Crucify Him!" chills ran down my spine. We said it a second time & I found myself holding back tears. I'm embarrassed to admit that the Passion has always been just another story to me. I understand that it happened- but it never really had any effect on me one way or the other. This troubled me, but not often & not long enough I suppose. Today... today was different. Even though I was standing there in a church reading from a book, there was something so... visceral about it. Everything seemed to fall away for a moment & suddenly I was one of THOSE people in the crowd, crying out against Jesus...

The Eucharist followed, I received a blessing from the deacon & spent the rest of my time weeping in the pew. I got a taste of the Passion this morning & suddenly this story that I've heard every year for the last 30 years has come to life for me- or should I say, has come to give me life...

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