Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday - Hosanna in excelsis!

Benedictus qui venit in nomine domini.

There is something lyrically beautiful and majestically timeless about the Latin rendering of this supreme moment of joy. And as we enter this Holy Week - the most solemn and intense period of worship in the Christian calendar – it is important to remember that it does indeed begin with supreme joy as Jesus entered Jerusalem as the fulfilment of the long-promised salvation of Israel.

As Cranmer held his blessed palm this morning, and gazed at an altar bedecked with palm branches, he reflected that palms to the Romans were a symbol of victory and of military prowess. The Jewish people simply echoed this practice, perhaps drawing on 1 Maccabees where it is recorded that the people waved palm branches to celebrate the independence of Jerusalem and Judea.

And as the ancient hymn Gloria Laus was echoing in Cranmer’s mind, he reflected upon his palm cross – the sign of Christ's grace which simultaneously fuses the joy of his triumph with the profound sorrow of his death. The Passion Gospel is forever in the background of the Hosannas of the people – a people who could never have foreseen what would befall their Messiah just a week later. They yearned for a king who would proclaim Israel’s independence from Rome; they wanted a Messiah who would be their religio-political hero; they wanted a Jesus who would fulfil their religious expectations and affirm their political agendas.

On this final Sunday of Lent, Cranmer wishes to pause from temporal matters religio-political and reflect on the fact that little has changed in two millennia. Even today, those who believe in Christ want a certain kind of Jesus; a certain type of Messiah – one who will bless our politics, bless our wars and battles, and will be ‘on our side’ against all our enemies, foreign and domestic. We seek a Messiah who will affirm out notion of truth, our interpretation of Scripture, our spiritual pilgrimage through this temporal existence.

Today is a day for humility, reflecting on the fact that Jesus did not enter Jerusalem riding a fine chariot, or the equivalent of a armoured vehicle or a Rolls Royce: he rode in on a donkey, like a humble peasant on a mission of peace.

And let us not forget that these same people who today shouted ‘Hosanna!’ are the same people who cried out ‘Crucify him!’ just five days later. And all because they realised that the Jesus who rode in on a donkey was not the Jesus they had invented in their minds, for he had objectives which were not remotely in line with their own.


Blogger dizzyfatplonka said...

Trust no party, trust no faction a timeless poem for the occasion :)

16 March 2008 at 15:07  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
I was confronted this week with my own superficiality , it is the insidious nature of double speak to enter so much of our lives that we forget.
we forget how or where food comes from , we forget how even earth worms are so vital, we forget that we are interdependent.

the christ illuminated this interdependence , by each of us playing our part , running the race , or being in one body.
He highlighted that its the wrong desires that are placed in us that lead to struggle and suffering.

being led astray was as common then as now, those waving palms 2000 years ago , were not expecting that the message of change would be one within the mind of the individual , indeed it seems the ffort required of this request was all to much for some to bear.

to trepass is to cut across , it now appears that we have taken so many "short cuts" to get the immediacy of afflunence , that whole ecosystems are hanging by a also seems we have taken so many shortcuts in valueing the relationship of man/woman to god , and within the family , that our children have been made to forget also.

when the people of jersulam asked for jesus to be crucufied , they wanted the short cut as well , hoping that it would be power and riches that he would bring. It is the wealth , the treasure house of light that jesus thought was the most valuable in relieveing poverty .

16 March 2008 at 17:16  
Blogger Ttony said...

"And all because they realised that the Jesus who rode in on a donkey was not the Jesus they had invented in their minds, for he had objectives which were not remotely in line with their own."

How very, very, true. I've now been vouchsafed two insights about Holy Week in two days!

16 March 2008 at 18:31  
Anonymous Fran said...

"And let us not forget that these same people who today shouted ‘Hosanna!’ are the same people who cried out ‘Crucify him!’ just five days later. "

Your Grace may well be mistaken to identify the people who called for Jesus' crucifixion with those who welcomed Him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

As Professor David Flusser et al have pointed out, this incident took place just outside Pilate's house, where the large Temple deputation of Chief priests and their guards was already gathered with the express intention of having Jesus condemned. It is probable that they were the ones being called on, and unlikely that it was a large Jewish crowd. John's Gospel says that the High Priest and his guard began the calls for his execution. Luke's Gospel also says that many onlookers left the scene of crucifixion 'beating their breasts' a traditional gesture of sorrow and contrition.

Hopefully the BBC adaptation will be well researched enough to bring this point out.

16 March 2008 at 20:06  
Anonymous Sir Henry Morgan said...

Your Grace: I mean this in the nicest possible way ... but damn your hide.

Can you ever remember the times in your life when a bit of a tune has taken hold inside your head and it just keeps ricochetting around in there? Well you've done that to me today.

I can remember that song from my schooldays - 40+ years ago - and this posting has brought it back and now it's bouncing around inside my skull like a catchy little pop song. Gloh ohohohohohoh ohohohohohoh ria hosanna inexcelsis.


Strangely enough, the last time this happened to me it was a song by that 'Singing Nun' woman. Remember her?

17 March 2008 at 00:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just how many people were in Church with his Grace...?

Disestablishment can't come soon enough.

18 March 2008 at 01:27  

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