Alleluia, how the people cheer
And palm leaves rustle as the king draws near.
~ John Beavis
Entering Holy Week is an experience which is different for each person. I can remember being at a Taizé service during Lent some 8 or 9 years ago and asking a visiting monk if he enjoyed the service. His response was that he could not enjoy anything during Lent, which at the time I thought was really peculiar – surely the salvation that comes from Easter is something to rejoice? I now understand much better where he is coming from, having spent time meditating on the different meanings to be found in the events leading up the resurrection. But if there is one day which really is about rejoicing, then that day must be today!
Picture this: a man arrives in a city riding a donkey. He is surrounded by his closest friends and followers, and there are crowds packing the streets to welcome him. He has achieved celebrity status and everyone is keen to get a look at him – those wanting healing, those to worship, those who want a revolution and those who are just curious. They lay both their cloaks and palm leaves on the ground to welcome the King just as they are commanded:
And you shall take to you on the first day the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook: And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. – Leviticus 23:40
There are different traditions surrounding the marking of Palm Sunday as with all Christian festivals and holy days. One, from the Orthodox Church, focuses on welcoming Christ into our lives on Palm Sunday, reminding its followers of the nearness of God. I really like this idea! Bringing the meaning of Palm Sunday into our own lives is simple in many ways:
When Christ entered into Jerusalem the people spread garments in the way: when He enters into our hearts, we pull off our own righteousness, and not only lay it under Christ’s feet but even trample upon it ourselves. – Augustus Toplady
Throughout the year we have opportunities to reflect on aspects of the Gospel, giving us the chance to try again and again to commit ourselves to God. Perhaps Palm Sunday is a chance for us to welcome Christ again; perhaps it is a chance to reaffirm our faith; perhaps it is a calling to think about the strength of our commitment to God; perhaps it is a time to celebrate before the pain of the crucifixion. However we use it, may it be a day of blessing for all!