All posts tagged: Palm Sunday

On the Particular Grace of Palm Branches

“See the palm trees? They tell you anything’s possible. You can be anything, do anything. Start over.” So mutters Terrence Malick’s wayward young pilgrim near the start of his Lenten meditation Knight of Cups (2016). The voiceover accompanies a sequence of restless days and nights in Los Angeles: our Augustinian wanderer stalks empty studio lots, paces his sparsely furnished apartment, frolics through unnamed hotel rooms, mingles about impersonal party mansions. The places he haunts are not really places at all but vacant stages for his own libidinous self-expression. While in the grip of these confessedly errant passions, forgetful of himself and his surroundings, palm trees bespeak boundlessness. For those possessed of a liturgical imagination, palm branches send nearly the opposite message. As firmly as any other symbols in our yearly cycle, they affix in us the impression of a distinct time and place. They reinforce the scandalous particularity of our creed: that for us and for our salvation, God was not content to “be anything” or “do anything.” Instead, God chose a particular people, rooted …

Music of Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Throughout Holy Week, we will sing hymns and psalms once again that are often only used at this time of the liturgical year, and yet their impressions upon our hearts and souls will continue to deepen as they etch themselves into our liturgical memory. All Glory, Laud, and Honor. Pange Lingua Gloriosi. O Sacred Head Surrounded. Victimae Paschali Laudes. This music forms us; it gives us voice to respond to the overwhelming love God has poured out upon us by sending the Son by the power of the Spirit to reconcile all of creation to the Father, whether we are singing ourselves, or lifting up our hearts on the voices of others. In this spirit, I would like to offer one or two pieces of music to mark each day of Holy Week as a way of contemplating the mysteries sung and celebrated in the liturgy. As we journey through this Holy Week, may we listen deeply to the Word of God sung and spoken in the prayer of the Church; may it penetrate our hearts and …

A Gift Unto the End

The opening Gospel for Palm Sunday describes the hope that marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The disciples sing a hymn welcoming the long hoped for king into the great city: “Blessed is the king who comes/in the name of the Lord./Peace in heaven/and glory in the highest” (Lk 19:38). The reader is returned to the angelic hymn sung by angels at the birth of Jesus. Yet soon, we will find ourselves encountering not the silent peace of the manger but the sorrowful stillness of those who wait at the tomb of our dead King and God. Jesus’ entire ministry in the Gospel of Luke has been oriented toward this death. He is the suffering servant from the prophet Isaiah, who speaks words of divine comfort to the weary (cf. Is 50:4), while taking upon himself the violence of the world: “I gave my back to those who beat me . . . my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting” (Is 50:6). The more righteous the suffering servant, the more he conforms himself …