From hero to villain
The ‘Holy Fire’ is a miracle that the Greek orthodox have witnessed every year in Jerusalem on Easter Saturday since AD 810. Their patriarch enters the Holy Sepulcher after hours of prayer and preparation, while the faithful fill the church and many more cram the square outside and surrounding streets.
All the lights are turned off. The belief is that a blue light, not lit by human hand, emanates from within Jesus’s tomb, and rises from the marble slab covering the stone bed. The patriarch receives the light and brings it to the faithful. The congregation spends hours in intense prayers and silence. They wait outside until the Holy Fire is seen by everyone. This light then travels to the four corners of the world.
With Palm Sunday, we begin the Holy Week. This week of prayer and penance is for the renewal of our lives which means leaving sin behind and living as Lights with new life at Easter. The readings remind us of the entry of Jesus, on a donkey’s back, into Jerusalem while people were singing “Hosanna”. This was to fulfill what was prophesied by Zechariah.
“Celebrate incredibly, Daughter Zion! – Yell, Little girl Jerusalem – See, your king comes to you – honorable and victorious – humble and riding on a donkey – on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). But Jesus’ entry is not to a throne in a palace but to the Cross on Calvary.
Pope Francis says that Palm Sunday could be called “bitter sweet”. The shouts of “Hosanna” which means “save us” will soon change into shouts, “Crucify him”. But the response of Jesus to this shouting is the same. He is neither flattered on Palm Sunday nor furious on Good Friday. A week that begins with celebration and shouts of joy will then move onto another scene where the power of darkness will take charge of Him. The King of kings will be arrested, scourged, crucified and buried.
“I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness” (Jn. 12: 46). He is the King of all Kings, and yet He was born in Nazareth, a place surprisingly never mentioned in the OT and now He is walking towards the Cross, again a word never mentioned even once in the OT.
Today, we join the crowd who sang “Hosanna”. They were those who had been healed, delivered from various possessions, or even raised from the dead to life. We too have been saved by His Blood. May we who were immersed into the life of Jesus in baptism do not leave Him alone after Palm Sunday, but rather keep awake for the Light.
Manoj Kunnath CSsR
© Majellan 2020