It’s Palm Sunday!
We are celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem!
An advantage of our long services is that there are so many hymns that every year a different one strikes you in a new way. This year’s champion for me was one that came from the triodion canon on the Wednesday before Palm Sunday (if this sounds foreign to you just know that it is a part of our morning prayer).
“With the children, let us also go out to meet Christ our God, bringing works of mercy instead of palms, and prayer in our hearts instead of branches. And let us cry out: “Hosanna! Bless and exalt Him above all forever!”.”
Mercy and prayer in our hearts are important when we run out to meet Christ our God, but it was the first part of the quote above that caught my attention. With the children, we go out to meet Christ. It is not with the middle-aged, nor is it with the elderly that we go to meet Christ. It is with the children that we must go.
Why with the children?
I found an intriguing answer in a poem/homily by a Syrian poet of the 5th/6th century named Jacob of Sarug. (On a side note: it never ceases to amaze me how relevant and insightful these older authors are) Jacob points out that Christ rides on the throne of Cherubim and angels in heaven while on earth He is seated on a colt. The exalted one humbles Himself. Christ is above and below! He is in heaven seated on the throne of the Cherubim and at the same time seated on a colt.
Jacob says “The elders denied the praise due to the King who had come to the land. But the infants of the place were stirred by wonder, so as to give praise.”
I tend to think that it is precisely this wonder that allowed the children to go out to meet Christ. In their wonder, it is as if they saw Christ both seated on a colt and on the throne of the Cherubim in the heavens.
Why were the children able to do this?
They created space for Christ to triumphantly enter into their hearts. They did not have the same expectations that the elders did. The expectations that the elders had about who the Messiah was going to be in effect closed the path, the path that the children filled with garments and palms while running alongside Christ entering into Jerusalem. The children were open to the surprise that allows wonder to permeate their being.
Later in Jacob’s poem/homily, he says “Children were blessing and praising the King who had come, but the old woman of idolatry was polishing her idols in order to renovate them.”
Children went out to meet the King while the old woman of idolatry polished her idols. Think about the difference in the ways in which a young child expects a guest as compared to the way many of us (myself first and foremost) prepare for a guest. Often for us who are not children, we prepare for a guest by cleaning up. Cleaning up is not a bad thing! The question we should ask ourselves is “why are we cleaning up?”. Are we cleaning up, polishing the furniture (instead of silver idols) so that we won’t be embarrassed when the guest arrives? Are we cleaning up because we want to show off what we have? Are we cleaning up just because “it’s what you do for guests”? If we are cleaning for those reasons, then it’s possible we are preparing for the wrong reason. If, however, we are cleaning out of love for the guest, then we have the right reason. This cleaning can overshadow our excitement about the guest coming. We should be excited about the guest.
Children react differently. Here I’m speaking of children who haven’t already learned that you should clean up before a guest arrives. When a guest comes, a friend, children tend to be excited. They may look out the window over and over again waiting; anticipating. I had to ask parents if this was the case and was told that it is. I also learned that a child might prepare by getting some toys ready. The child’s preparation seems geared much more toward the other person, the guest, while as adults we have ways of making it about ourselves.
Wonder and excitement stir the child. They go out to greet the other. The adult has pre-conceived notions about the encounter. The adult tries to manage the situation and to control it. The child allows them self to be open. This openness is why the children were better equipped to recognize the King, and run and meet Him while the elders were busy polishing their idols.
Many guests come to our monastery. I still need to learn how to clean toilets better simply because I love the guests. I plan on that enterprise being a life-long one. I pray that I may become better at opening the space of wonder up. That, instead of toys, I become more excited to share our beautiful prayer life with the guests. Likewise, I pray that I may be open to the encounter and be filled with that wonder and surprise when greeting them, and in so doing allowing a pathway for Christ to triumphantly enter my heart. Only if I am open to Christ entering into my heart will I find the opportunity to lay down my garments and palm branches of mercy and prayer before Him and chant “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Pray for me.
I’ll pray for you.
Thank you for reading and feel free to share!