March 16, 2008


“I watched with glee, while your kings and queens
fought for ten decades for the gods they made.
I shouted out, who killed the Kennedys?
When after all it was you and me.”

— The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy For The Devil”

I know what you’re saying – what does a Rolling Stones song have to do with Palm Sunday? Well, first of all, let me say that Palm Sunday at St. Anne Catholic Church provided the right balance between the triumph and tragedy, and the sense of joy and devastation that is Palm Sunday.

We are in Holy Week.

There were a few differences between the way this St. Anne parish commemorated Palm Sunday from what I have been used to in my own Episcopal tradition at St. Anne’s. For one thing, there was no congregation procession outside and around the building to the familiar strains of “All Glory, Laud, And Honor” – something, I have to admit, I found refreshing, as I always questioned the whole purpose of that particular tradition, both from a historical and theological standpoint. Anyways, today, we received our palms prior to entering the church (as opposed to when leaving) – the purpose being, we were asked to raise our palms high for a procession, upon which the congregation was sprinkled with holy water – something I found both incredibly powerful and moving, bringing me almost to tears with joy and humility.

For this Palm Sunday, St. Anne brought out the “A” team in terms of musicians and singers – and for good reason – as the Gospel for the day (recalling the Lord’s Passion, from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem through his Crucifixion and Burial) was not simply read by a number of parishioners (usually the case in your typical Episcopal parish), but rather performed in song and spoken word by Fr. Greg and an additional contingent of musicians and singers brought in especially for the occasion – quite different from what I’m used to – but done exceedingly well.

Fr. Tim’s sermon following the Gospel was rather straight forward and to the point – no more than a minute or two. His theme? That as much we’d all like to think that we’d be the “good guys” in the whole Passion play, that we’d be the ones offering to help Jesus carry his cross, or wailing on the side of the road like the Daughters of Jerusalem, more likely we’d be the ones amongst the chief priests, or the crowd shouting, “Crucify him!”, or, like Peter, denying he knew the Lord out of fear for our own safety. As he noted, while we human beings have an incredible capacity for doing good, any look at the newspapers or cable networks would tell you we have an equally great capacity to do evil – a very humbling and sobering message, to be sure.

And it was then during communion that, listening to Fr. Tim repeating “The Body of Christ”, “The Body of Christ” as he gave commmunion that, for some reason, Mick Jagger singing that Rolling Stones song from 1968 popped into my mind; how, only forty years ago, our country was recoiling in horror at the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and the riots and tear gas at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. And all of a sudden it made sense to me: it wasn’t the chief priests, or the Pharisees, or even Pontius Pilate that killed Our Lord – it was you and me. And I realized in horror that, far from being one of those in the crowd calling for the release of Barabbas and screaming, “Crucify him!”, I’d be the one at home vacuuming the damned pool, or running errands, or working my ass off, or even kneeling in front of my prayer table to God while Our Lord was strung up on a cross and brutally killed. And it was then I saw in my own personal mirror the horror and disgust of all those years wasted pursuing ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, and how so much of it I was doing it for me, and not for Him. And I felt ashamed.

It wasn’t a pretty picture, I’ll tell you that.

So it was then I realized – maybe for the first time – how we all have been given our own particular crosses to bear. I thanked God for the cross of not being able to receive Communion on Palm Sunday, even though every fiber of my being has been crying out in anguish, hunger, and thirst to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood in bread and wine. But it could be worse – I thought of Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Catholic archbishop recently kidnapped and killed in Iraq simply for his faith, or the Christians in Africa and China persecuted for the same damned reason, and all those those throughout the world who had prayed this very day to God, or Jesus, or Mary out of loneliness, pain, sorrow, fear, hunger, grief, or remorse. I realized then that the cross I bear is far smaller than many do in this world.

A humbling revelation, to be sure.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:17 | Comments Off on A Passionate Palm Sunday
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