Palm Sunday – The Doorway to a Sacred Journey
Pope Benedict XVI described Palm Sunday as “the great doorway leading into Holy Week,” the week when the Lord Jesus makes his way toward the culmination of his earthly existence and journeys through the great mysteries of human life. I wonder what this doorway would look like.
Doorways can represent different things for us, depending upon their nature. Is the door open or closed? Is it a doorway I am familiar with or am I in the dark about what is behind it? Perhaps even reluctant or fearful! Is it an inviting doorway or is it imposing? Is there a security check, with a metal detector or a guard dog?
A doorway can be forbidding, yet we discover a beautiful garden behind it. Or, a doorway can be beautiful and ornate and can hide a place of horror and torture. It takes careful discernment to step through the doorway.
A doorway leading to Holy Week is inviting us to mysteries that are both familiar and unknown. I know what to expect in Holy Week. It’s like coming home to mysteries that I have lived with all my life. But the events of suffering, death, and resurrection are always experienced in new ways.
The experience depends on what has happened to me and to the world around me since we last entered into these mysteries. How am I more deeply aware of the suffering of the world and individuals this year? What experiences in my own life or the life of those around me do I hold onto as we look toward Good Friday and the Cross? How do I need to experience the real effects of the rebirth of Resurrection at this point in my life?
It’s good for us to ask what our true expectations are for this week. What are our deepest desires as we enter through this day’s doorway to Holy Week?
The Greeting at the start of the Palm Sunday liturgy invites to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. “Let us commemorate the Lord’s entry into the city of our salvation, following in his footsteps.” This doorway leads to a sacred journey.
I’ve always been struck by the processional nature of Palm Sunday. Depending upon the worshipping community, there may be a real procession with blessed palms. But, at the very least, there is the reminder of a procession.
Once, many years ago, I prepared a prayer service for Palm Sunday. I can no longer find a copy, but I remember that I prepared a kind of “way” for this day, much like the way, or stations, of the Cross on Good Friday. The stations consisted of miracles, healing accounts, and significant encounters between Jesus and people dealt with in his three-year journey from his baptism to the Cross.
I think I did that because I have a personal assumption that all of these experiences went through Jesus’ mind as he entered into Jerusalem. The crowd was roaring. Jesus was no fool. He probably guessed that the hosannas wouldn’t last before the experiences of Jerusalem reached their endpoint.
Joyce Rupp, a wonderfully creative writer and presenter, published a book in 2008: Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self. She uses doorways – an ordinary and everyday object – to help with reflection. Among the chapters, she deals with knocking on the door, opening the door, standing on the threshold, and so on. It’s probably too close to Holy Week to find a copy, but it’s worth adding to a TO DO pile.