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.

Think of our Covid year! 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 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. Many blessings on this sacred journey!

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • fr. Joe Newman SJ
    Posted at 08:17h, 28 March Reply

    Thank Philip! I’ll look for that book by Joyce Rupp.

  • Dee Sproule
    Posted at 09:31h, 28 March Reply

    Amazing!!! Beautiful!
    (Gosh I wish you could find a copy of your “way”.)
    This reflection is spot on.
    Thank you, Philip.
    Blessings on you for this Holy Week.

  • Dennis McCloskey
    Posted at 10:10h, 28 March Reply

    As always, Fr. Shano, it is enlightening to read your words. Your door analogies are “mind-opening.” I once wrote a magazine article about the colourful doors of a particular village in Italy. I titled it, “Doors I Adore.” I’m also reminded of the joke about an Englishman who wanted to profess his love to his French-speaking girlfriend by saying, “Je t’adore.” She replied, “Shut it yourself.”

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:21h, 28 March Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Catherine von Zuben
    Posted at 12:44h, 28 March Reply

    Thank you Philip for this powerful reflection. How the doorways leading to our spiritual journey this Holy Week are so different from what we have always experienced. Rather than a team of welcomers greeting us as we enter through the main church door, we are signalled to spray our hands with disinfectant, show our registration form for the limited attendance at this Mass, chose a seat numbered and distant from the next parishioner, and reminded that only the Cantor will chant the beautiful psalms and hymns of the celebrations of this coming week. The list of the sick and the dead because of COVID brings concern and sadness to all present. For how much longer will this deadly virus interrupt our once busy unrestricted lives? When will our jubilant choirs again sing Alleluia? However our hearts remain filled with gratitude for the blessings we all experience as women and men of faith living here in this beautiful country of Canada.

  • Esther Gilbert
    Posted at 15:51h, 28 March Reply

    Yes, Philip, and I needed your reflection as this has very much been on our minds pandemic hasn’t allowed Chris to see, touch and sing her way into our journeys into salvation either. Thank you

  • Bernice Dookhan-Khan
    Posted at 18:56h, 28 March Reply

    Thanks you Fr. Philip for a very deep and powerful reflection. As I read it, I remember my personal encounter with Jesus in Jerusalem especially the analogies of doorways as we enter Holy Week. Lots of food for thought. A very blessed Holy Week. God bless.

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