Palm Sunday - March 24, 2013
“This coming Shabbat is called gadol ("great") because it immediately precedes Pesach (Passover) and recalls the time when the Paschal lamb was selected for sacrifice to commemorate the liberation of God's people from enslavement and death into new life in the land promised to them. This is a holy time of year for Christians as well, of course; when Jesus entered Jerusalem to "keep the feast" during the final week of his life, he was greeted by the cries of Passover pilgrims: "Hosanna!" This word is actually the phrase "hoshiah na" (הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא), meaning "please save" or "pray, help us." The pilgrims were singing Psalm 118:25-26 (one of the Hallel or "praise" Psalms; i.e., Psalm 113-118, always sung during Passover - a tradition that continues to this day).” -- Jason Van Borssum, parishioner, St. Mark’s, Glendale, CA
Pilgrims singing “Hosanna!”…. A few years ago, while on retreat with the brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, my spiritual director had me do a meditation on the word “hosanna.” He explained to me that the word came from a desire for people to call out to God to save them, as in “God save us!” or “God save me!” At the time, my life was extremely stressful. I was working two jobs and trying to balance between discernment into the life of ordained ministry and excelling at my position at Delta Air Lines. I needed God to save me, because no matter how much I tried to get things right, my life kept getting more and more complicated.
The people in Jerusalem on the day of Jesus’s triumphal entry were indeed crying, “God save us!” The Jewish people were being oppressed by the Romans. Their ancestral home was no longer theirs, and even though they felt chosen by God, they also felt they were in need of salvation. Jesus, the great teacher, the healer, the prophet, some claiming he was the messiah – this is the ONE who can save us. And although we now recognize Jesus as messiah, we also acknowledge that he might be our messiah in ways in which we do not always expect.
The people of Jerusalem were expecting a warrior to take over. Instead, they were given a savior who asked everyone to forgive one another, to live in harmony, to bless others and to lay down our lives for one another. In that, we begin entering a great mystery of the salvation of our God. We might end up confused or perplexed, but we intentionally live in to the mystery.
The stories we hear during Holy Week allow us to realize and claim this mystery in a more comprehensive way. Dr. James Farwell, professor of liturgy at Virginia Theological Seminary, recently said that our participation in liturgy is to claim something that is known by the community – to claim something known without being able to write or talk or speak about it. In essence, our participation in worship helps us claim and practice the revelation of truth.
What will this Holy Week bring for you? What will you specifically ask for when you proclaim, “Hosanna!”? How will you recognize Jesus as your Savior and Lord this week?
The Rev. Troy Mendez, Associate Rector, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church