Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Monday, March 30, 2015

Palm Sunday & Holy Week: A Day Late

I am a day late with this.  As winter refused to relinquish its claim on us this past week, so too did the poor health that has nagged me for the last few months.  Hopefully, it was the last hurrah for both cold weather and ill health.  I spent most of Sunday on the couch, keeping company with books, Sunday papers, and Netflix.  We did a family walk on a path that mostly shielded us from the wind, but I did not exert myself with the customary Special Sunday Dinner and Dessert.

Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday, often brings to mind something I read in “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Trapp.  It’s a good book.  She shares this:
Then Holy Week was close at hand, with Palm Sunday ushering it in; we made little excursions into the woods and came home with armloads of pussy willows. With the help of small branches of boxwood and fir twigs they were arranged into nice, round bouquets, fastened to a stick about three feet long. From the workshop we got nice, curly wood shavings, which were dyed blue, red, and yellow with Easter-egg dye, and hung all over the bouquets. They looked lovely and cheerful, and on Palm Sunday the church was a sight. Hundreds of children, each one with his Palmbuschn, jealously rivaling his neighbor’s in beauty. They were blessed in a special solemn way by the priest in remembrance of the palm branches which were used to make Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem such a triumphant one.

In the afternoon of Palm Sunday they were taken out into the fields. Each meadow or field or wood patch got its own; on each stick was fastened s mall bottle with holy water, and the family went around distributing them while they said the rosary together. Thus the blessing of the Church was brought to the meadows, where the cattle would graze; to the fields, where the grain for the daily bread would ripen; to the woods, where the beams for the house and the boards for table and bed were growing, to protect them against “the snares of the Enemy”: flood, hail, and fire.

That’s very beautiful.  A benediction upon the land that sustains you.  In that spirit, I will be burying our palm branches in the garden.  Since the palms are sacramentals, care must be taken with their disposal. Burial is appropriate; there’s the added idea of bringing blessing upon our physical land.

Trapp’s description of the children at church captures my imagination.  My Palm Sundays, off and on for the last two decades, depending upon the ages of my children, have consisted of being alternately amused and exasperated over the distraction the palms cause during Mass.  Yesterday was no exception.

For us, the rest of this week entails a custom borrowed from our older brethren in faith history, the Jewish people.  Cleaning for Passover.  It’s not just spring cleaning for them, but carries a religious significance.  I attempt to capture a similar spirit for Holy Week: we clean out the house as the exterior sign of interior purification.  A good clean-out prepares the house for the newness of Easter.  My children of a tidy bent enjoy this; those who aren’t see it as more Lenten penance.

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