“Hosanna!”, they shouted, their arms raised to the heavens, their hands grasping the central vein of palm leaves. The palms fluttered in a rippling tunnel beside him as he passed through the city gates. Children wove their way between the legs of old men, their little arms cradling palm leaves. They bent down, pushing through the crowd to the dusty path where the donkey would pass, laying the leaves, lattice-like before the beast of burden, like an ancient red carpet.
“Hosanna” they cried. “Save now!”
Finally, on this day in Jerusalem, Jesus the Christ would profess his royal lineage. Finally, Hosanna, they thought he would save them from the political control of the Romans.
They did not know he would not save them from the Romans. More importantly, he would save them from themselves.
On this Sabbath day, Palm Sunday, I hold a fresh green palm leaf in my hand. My fingers trace the sharp edges, all the way up to the brown tip, then back down to where the color is the hue of newborn green. I imagine myself there, in that city, and I wonder where I would have set my feet that day. I wonder if I would have been a believer, or a doubter, or a believer of half truths, or even a Roman. I pretend I am old and infirmed and I have lifted myself from my bed, down the steps f my humble home to the street. Frightened by the motion of the mass of people, yet compelled to join them. I imagine myself a weary mother, wondering what all the fuss is about, wiping my hands on my apron as I peer out my window. I imagine I am a child, my legs curled around the trunk of a tree, my arms stretching up to the tender part, pulling leaves out and letting them drop to the ground below, calling to my friend to hurry and gather them before strangers took them. I imagine the smell of sweat swirled in the dusty dry air, stirred up by crowds of people. I imagine the bray of a small white donkey, the shadow of a man whose cloak will no longer hide his face.
Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem that day, one last time, and set the wheels in motion for his own demise. He was, of course, fully aware that this was the beginning of the end. Such a celebration for so much sorrow!
I sat at church this morning, my head bowed as the Deacons walked between the rows, offering the bread and water to we who believe and desire cleansing. I sat there and held my hands in my lap, my palms facing up. Fingers fanning out, like palm fronds. I traced with my eyes the life lines, and head lines, and heart lines on each hand, curling the fingers up toward the thumb to make the lines press deeper in the palms. I pondered the mystical mind that puts weight on the length and strength of flesh lines; who foretell the future according to the lines in the hand. I was reminded of the desire of the human heart to find purpose, and direction, and meaning. Some of us find it in faith, others in fortune and mysticism. Some pick, piecemeal, bits of this and bits of that to suit their imaginations. Still some drink their coffee and read the paper and pay no mind to faith.
I sat there, during the passing of the Holy Sacrament this morning and spread the fronds of my palms out, interweaving my fingers into each other…one hand into the other, and tucked them tight into a cluster of prayer.
She clenched her hand against her breast, the corners of her shawl wet with her tears, her throbbing chest rising and falling with the moans that fell from her lips. She stretched her head upward, to the cross, where the weight of her son pulled at the nails in his palms. His blood dripped to the ground, like sacred rain, sucked into the thirsty earth. Her head bobbed between the upward gaze and the demands of a mother heart that would not permit her to watch, so she lowered her head, then lifted, then lowered again in fitful sobs. And yet something in her told her to abide, despite the grotesque scene…to look upon him while yet he breathed, and to stay with him through the pain of death as she had shared that communal suffering at his birth. Full circle. She ached to hold him, to lift his weight, to kiss his hands and his feet and cleanse them with her tears.
He looked on her, the cradle of his flesh, and called to her, quieting her heaving shoulders with the safety of his living words.
He spoke to John: “Behold, thy mother.”
I do not know how they may have removed those nails when the deed was done. Some special tool, created no doubt for such atrocities, that would provide leverage to remove these things. I imagine his mother’s hands, kissing those wounded palms, wiping them clean, but unable to remove the hole. Big, gaping holes through which we all must pass.
I imagine, without really being able to imagine in my human condition, the moment those fingers sprang to life. I close my eyes and I am Mary, running toward him, our hands outstretched, palm meeting palm in a sacred grip, my palm against his palm, my fingertip fitting perfectly in the well of his wrist
Tokens of love. Scars He chose to keep. Never ending circles of mercy, left for proof to all the worlds, that while he could have saved himself, he would not save himself. Instead, he ties us all to Home with sacred threads passing through the palms of his infinitely loving, compassionately wiling, strong and gentle and blessedly holy hands.