Speak Lord: Calm and guide our hearts…

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When they drew near to Jerusalem,
to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two of his disciples, and said to them,
‘Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately as you enter it
you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat;
untie it and bring it.
If any one says to you,
“Why are you doing this?” say,
“The Lord has need of it
and will send it back here immediately.’”
And they went away,
and found a colt tied at the door out in the open street;
and they untied it.
And those who stood there said to them,
‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’
And they told them what Jesus had said;
and they let them go.
And they brought the colt to Jesus,
and threw their garments on it;
and he sat upon it.
And many spread their garments on the road,
and others spread leafy branches
which they had cut from the fields.
And those who went before
and those who followed cried out,
‘Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!
Hosanna in the highest!’

Gospel for the Procession on Palm Sunday
Mark 11:1-10

The principal Gospel reading on Sunday is, of course, the reading of the Passion, this year taken from the Gospel of Mark.

That text will be featured on this Blog over the Monday to Wednesday of Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday the readings here will be taken from the principal liturgies of those days. Service as usual will resume on Easter Monday!

The above passage from Mark’s Gospel reminds of the hope that Jesus awoke in the hearts of many people. The Gospels are silent on whether these same people would form part of the crowd some days later calling for his execution, but we know from other occasions just how fickle a crowd can be, and how callous.

Passion in us is important, but not always trustworthy as a pointer to what is good and true. But it will regularly inform our actions.

  • Where has passion helped you?
  • Where has it caused you to hurt and do damage?
  • How do you seek to curb its raw power over you?

Figure for Palm Sunday Procession. Archiepiscopal Museum, Craco,. (c) 2015, Allen Morris. 

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Speak Lord: that we may rejoice for ever…

DSC02615 Palm Sunday

On Sunday, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, two Gospel passages are read. The first is that quoted below – the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem riding over plam branches, which gives Palm Sunday its popular and briefer name. It is read before the Procession or, at least, Entrance of the Mass.

The second is the account of the Passion read during the Liturgy of the Word. This second reading will appear on this blog tomorrow.

When they were near Jerusalem and had come in sight of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village facing you, and you will immediately find a tethered donkey and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, “The Master needs them and will send them back directly”.’ This took place to fulfil the prophecy:

Say to the daughter of Zion:
Look, your king comes to you;
he is humble, he rides on a donkey
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.

So the disciples went out and did as Jesus had told them. They brought the donkey and the colt, then they laid their cloaks on their backs and he sat on them. Great crowds of people spread their cloaks on the road, while others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in his path. The crowds who went in front of him and those who followed were all shouting:

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heavens!’

And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil. ‘Who is this?’ people asked, and the crowds answered, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

Matthew 21:1-11

One of the most shocking things of Holy Week is how, seemingly, within the week ‘Jerusalem’ turns on Jesus.

Maybe the crowd on Palm Sunday was different to that gathered to condemn Jesus at his trial. Maybe not. Crowds turn, very easily, very quickly.

And we can do the same as individuals. This or that happens, and our mask slips, or our mood swings.

The Lord comes to offer reconciliation to all, peace to all. To receive his gift, perhaps we first need to know how much we need it.

Fresco at Bethphage, the traditional site commemorating the beginning of Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem. (c) 2017, Allen Morris. 

Taste and See: welcome the Lord

Jerusalem Palms

Maybe it was replaced in many parishes and communities by a hymn but here is something lovely about the entrance antiphon provided for Palm Sunday.

Entrance Antiphon
Six days before the Passover,
when the Lord came into the city of Jerusalem,
the children ran to meet him;
in their hands they carried palm branches
and with a loud voice cried out:

Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy!

O gates, lift high your heads;
grow higher, ancient doors.
Let him enter, the king of glory!
Who is this king of glory?
He, the Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory.

Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy!

Cf. Jn 12: 1, 12-13; Ps 23: 9-10

It simply reminds of the historic event of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and the enthusiastic welcome he there received.

And then, quoting Psalm 23, it challenges us to how/whether we welcome the Lord. Are we of the crowd warmly welcoming, or do we find ourselves more ambivalent, more indifferent or maybe even hostile. Not in the liturgy, especially, but to the Lord in our lives and his challenge to how we live as community, as to whether we do live as community…

  • Where does the gospel challenge you?
  • Where does the Lord excite you?

Palms prepared for procession. Jerusalem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Faithful one

The Crucified, Liverpool.

The first reading at Mass today speaks to us in the context of Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, the week that we keep marking the Passion of the Lord, and that culminates in the week’s 8th Day, Easter Day, a Day that lasts 50 days – a week of weeks, stretching to Pentecost.

The first reading today speaks of Jesus as the faithful disciple, whose faithfulness is sustained despite the worst others can do to him.

 

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

Isaiah 50:4-7

As we hear the reading express the faithfulness of Jesus, the faithful disciple, servant-King, we are invited surely to wonder how true the sentiments are about ourselves, disciples here and now, and tested in all sorts of ways.

The coming week gives us many opportunities to reflect on our relationship to Jesus and our faithfulness to our vocations and service of the world. Our fault and failines we can bring to the Lord’s cross in sorrow, our successes we can bring to him too, as trophies that he has won in his victory over sin and death, enabling us to do our best.

 

  • What joys and sorrows do you bring to this Holy Week?
  • For what will you ask the Lord? For yourself? For others?

Detail of Crucifixion in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. Carving by Stephen Foster. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Loving Lord

Way of the Cross. Lincoln

Sunday is Palm Sunday or, as termed in the Missal, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.

The day marks the Resurrection – as does every Sunday – and this Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, most particularly Jesus’ joyful entry into Jerusalem which began that fateful and saving week in which our salvation was won.

In addition to the opening Gospel which reminds of the entry into Jerusalem, teh hear a longer extract from Luke’s Gospel which treats of the Passion.

There are two versions authorised for use, the shorter, which is given here, and the longer which seems to be the most commonly used.

The elders of the people and the chief priests and scribes rose, and they brought Jesus before Pilate.

They began their accusation by saying, ‘We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.’ Pilate put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘It is you who say it’ he replied. Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no case against this man.’ But they persisted, ‘He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judaea; it has come all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.’ When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man were a Galilean; and finding that he came under Herod’s jurisdiction he passed him over to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracle worked by him. So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply. Meanwhile the chief priests and the scribes were there, violently pressing their accusations. Then Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.

Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. ‘You brought this man before me’ he said ‘as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against the man in respect of all the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since is he has sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, So I shall have him flogged and then let him go.’ But as one man they howled, ‘Away with him! Give us Barabbas!’ (This man had been thrown into prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.)

Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ And for the third time he spoke to them, ‘Why? What harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him punished and then let him go’ But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts were growing louder.

Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.

As they were leading him away they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus. Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come when people will say, “Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”; to the hills, “Cover us.” For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?’ Now with him they were also leading out two other criminals to be executed.
When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified him there and the two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.
The people stayed there watching him. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer vinegar they said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. ‘Are you not the Christ?’ he said. ‘Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all?’ he said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,’ he said ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘Indeed, I promise you,’ he replied ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’

It was now about the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’ With these words he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said, ‘This was a great and good man.’ And when all the people who had gathered for the spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.

All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee, and they saw all this happen.

Luke 23:1-49

In the Passion Narrative there are many moments that can detain us in meditation, reflection and prayer.

The devotional tradition of the Stations of the Cross lead us in both meditation and a journey ourselves. Our sometimes shuffled, sometimes stately, procession stands in stark contrast to the experience of Jesus. Even when the Stations are expanded into a Passion Play what we do fall far, far short of the reality and its horror. Yet these echoes of what was done and which Jesus endured help us to know afresh the active love of God for us, and the pains to which he goes to win us.

  • What space will we make to keep Holy Week holy?
  • What will help us to attend the liturgies? What might keep us from them?
  • Who else might we encourage to come to the liturgies? Why?
  • What sorrows, what joys will we ourselves bring to the celebrations of suffering and mercy?

Marquetry showing Jesus carrying of the Cross from Lincoln Cathedral. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The faithfulness of the Lord

Christ at the Pillar, Arles 2014The first reading of the Mass of Palm Sunday was taken from the prophet Isaiah.

The passage comes from the so-called Third Song of the servant.  In it we hear the suffering servant speak grateful for the faithfulness of the Lord, and his gifts, even as he suffers for his own faithfulness to the Lord.

The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.
For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.
The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed.

Isaiah 50:4-7

At this time hundreds in the diocese of Westminster alone are j in the final stages og their preparation for initiation into the Way of Christian discipleship, being readied for Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. During the catechumenate, their principal time of preparation, they will surely have already encountered many ups and downs in the way of faith.

But who knows what lies ahead of them?

  • Pray for them in the coming days as they make their final preparation.
  • Pray for their openness of heart and for their courage in the days, months, and years that lie ahead.

Image of Christ at the pillar, Cloister of St Trophime, Arles. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The Lord’s gift of life

Palm Sunday Arles 2014

The Gospel read at the Commemoration of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem, at the beginning of our celebration of Palm Sunday, is worth hearing again…

When they were approaching Jerusalem, in sight of Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go off to the village facing you, and as soon as you enter it you will find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, “What are you doing?” say, “The Master needs it and will send it back here directly”.’

They went off and found a colt tethered near a door in the open street. As they untied it, some men standing there said, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They gave the answer Jesus had told them, and the men let them go.

Then they took the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on its back, and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, others greenery which they had cut in the fields. And those who went in front and those who followed were all shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heavens!’

Mark 11:1-10

Jesus’ enters Jerusalem  surrounded by praise and joy. He will leave the city some few days later beaten, bleeding, spat upon, exhausted.

Our  comings and goings in this life can be marked by similar reversals, and even if (thank God!) they are not often of such extreme passions.

By God’s grace, though, our coming into being, into life, is gift to the world. (Though it is tragic to know how often the  gift is spurned, and how often – in all sorts of circumstances and all through life – the world turns its back on the potential and wonder of every human life.)

By God’s grace, too, our passing from this life is intended to be always a passing into the glory of eternal communion with God and neighbour. (Though we need always to seek to do what we can to receive and live that gift.)

The entry to Jerusalem and all that Christ endures in the days that follow is gift to win us for life. Our praise this week may be muted by recognition of all that was, and is, necessary to save us, but praise it must be.

  • For what, in particular, will you give thanks this Holy Week?

Carved capital in the Cloister of St Trophime, Arles. (c) 2014, Allen Morris