It looked a little forlorn, the “theme” banner from our just-completed ACTS retreat, when I got to church this morning.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the place had been buzzing with spiritual energy – as the 40 men who had taken part in the retreat lined up to form the Palm Sunday procession before the 11:00 Mass.
“Hosanna!” was the cry in every one of our hearts yesterday. The word was, quite literally, on our lips. Today, though, the church was quiet. The joyful crowd – including our ACTS contingent – had pretty much slipped away, taking up their regular routines.
I noticed, too, the bits of palm frond scattered everywhere about the church this morning – littering the aisles like ticker-tape streamers following the big parade.
Holy Week has begun. And the contrast from Sunday to Monday is palpable: From raucous celebration…to vacuous silence.
I’m thinking, ‘Jesus must have seen something like this, too.’ From triumph…to tragedy…over the course of six short days. What must Monday of that very first Holy Week have been like for Him? Did He see bits of palm fronds still scattered all about Jerusalem? Did His heart yearn for another sip of affirmation from the crowds? Did He wonder, just for a moment, where the heck everybody’d gone?
There was a bit of comfort for me in the gospel passage we heard at Mass today. It told the story of a woman’s kind gesture: How Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, had anointed the feet of Jesus with ‘perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard.’
Nard: that’s big-time stuff in the world of aroma therapy, I’m told – offering a scent that ‘calms the heart, relaxes the mind, reduces excessive thinking, and brings a peaceful feeling.’
No doubt, it’s just what Jesus needed as He anticipated the great self-giving He was about to accomplish.
And as I enter into Holy Week, I realize how enticing even the suggestion of this fragrant berry is for my spirit.
I could use a little spikenard myself, to begin the process of opening my heart to the profound blessings of the days to come.
The parade is over.
Holy Week has begun.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.