Vigil of Palm Sunday
The contemporary (former monk) author Thomas Moore says, “The whole point of a good story is to give birth to other stories and to deep reflection.” The Palm Sunday stories certainly call us to reflection. There are stories within stories that bring to mind more stories. A temptation may be to try to reflect on too much. In Lectio, as in any of the arts, we allow the music, the art, the Word to take over. We become absorbed in the complex harmonies, tempos and textures, and become servant to the materials at hand.
Palm Sunday liturgy, it seems to me, is a potpourri of themes and a roller-coaster of emotions: high hosannas, a supper with friends, examples of loving humility, washing of feet and later washing of hands. There are incidents of betrayal and mockery; bravery of Simon and Veronica; compassion of John and Mary. All are acts of caring, courage and compassion. The soldier’s declaration: “Surely this was an innocent man,” and, the donation of a burial place, the preparation of the body of a loved-one, the watching and waiting … and waiting … and waiting.
Palm Sunday services begin with such glorious solemnity: waving palms, processions, joyful singing of hosanna! Within about an hour’s time we travel from cries of “Blessed is He who comes in the name of God!” to shouts of “Away with this man! Crucify him!” Then, we move on to the Eucharistic acclamation: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!” We pray for forgiveness and daily bread. We exchange God’s own peace with each other. We recall Jesus’ supreme sacrifice and take into ourselves His body and blood. The communion antiphon calls us back to the beginning of the story and the thread that winds through the whole story: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Still, not my will but yours be done.” A few hours later Jesus will utter: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
This same sentiment is echoed in the prayer often used at the Stations of the Cross: “Oh, my God, I love you. I love you more than myself. Grant that I may love you always, then do with me what you will.” I hand myself over to God, as Jesus did, in an act of self-surrender, “Suscipe me.” I am asking God to accept me just as I am now, open, vulnerable, powerless. I am also saying that I am willing to receive whatever God has in store for me in the future: the journey onward, the Palm Sundays, the Good Fridays, the Easters in my life. “Accept us O God, as you have promised; we shall live, and we shall not be disappointed in our hope.” A good choice for the Palm Sunday may be to simply “sit with” the story. I repeat: “The whole point of a good story is to give birth to other stories and to deep reflection.” (Thomas Moore Original Self p. 66)
~by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB