24 March 2013

Today Hosanna, tomorrow crucify him

No matter how often we sing it, the words of hymn 173 in Liedboek voor de kerken remain always somewhat startling: "today 'Hosanna;' tomorrow 'crucify him.'" It has often puzzled me how people could switch so quickly from proclaiming Jesus as king to crucifying him as a rebel (or thief). Even the switch in the words of the song feels so startling: Hosanna and crucify in one breath. Abbot Andrew from Saint Gregory's Abbey explains in his blog about how people got swept up in the crowd, crying out what they thought was the most popular. It is worth looking at - a good resource for reflecting on Holy week.

He also talks about the traditional Palm Sunday service in Anglican (and Catholic) churches, which I have participated in several times. We begin by marching around the church waving Palm branches and singing Hosanna only to return to our places and hear the entire crucifixion story. It is traditionally chanted, and through the chanting one hears the story anew. We go from singing Hosanna to hearing of Jesus' crucifixion. The chanting ends with his being laid in the grave. It seems an appropriate way to start Holy week, stilling ourselves and remembering what it is that we long for.

As I prepare myself for this week of remembering, I am also confronted by the reality that during this week when one would ideally slow down so as to have time for more contemplation, I have extra tasks related to helping ensure that those in the community can remember and celebrate well. I share responsibility for the liturgical colours during the services and take care of the flowers, which takes some time but is not generally difficult. However, on Friday afternoon, I asked at least 15 different flower people if they sold buxus branches (what we use here for Palm branches) and got nowhere. So Saturday morning, I went out with my scissors, thanked God and my neighbour(s) for the buxus bushes growing semi-wild on my street and cut off some branches for our services. Odd behaviour for my neighbourhood, but no one seemed to notice. The whole experience forced me to prepare for Palm Sunday and Holy week, albeit in a way I was not expecting. Today we've been thinking about Easter songs and what we can eat at the Easter breakfast - Matthijs and I are in charge of the weekend team for Easter and one of our largest responsibilities is preparing an elaborate breakfast for about 50 people. It makes for a different sense of preparation, one I think many pastors and musicians recognize. We remember but also anticipate and prepare. Good Friday is planned ahead of time alongside of Easter Hosanna, crucify him, and hallelujah all mix together only to find their rightful place in this Holy Week: through remembering and worshipping.

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