Today’s find: Palms, becalmed

Got my alarm set for Sunday morning, so that I can take advantage of the “drive-thru distribution” of blessed palms up at the parish.

And thus begins the oddest Holy Week I have ever experienced.

Slender, at times, our connection to the Body of Christ.

The Covid-19 shelter-in-place restrictions prohibit us from gathering together as a community to celebrate the liturgy for Palm Sunday – so I guess this is the next best thing: each household, picking up its palm to use as a sacramental (ideally during a “live-streaming” Mass) at home.

And it occurs to me that our physical separation might – in fact – become an invitation to ponder the blessing in our liturgical rubrics a bit more deeply.

Take for instance the “palm frond” we typically wave at Mass. It’s not actually a frond at all…but only part of a frond. (Technically, the lamina, I’m told: The blade shaped part of a leaf where photosynthesis takes place.)

Blade, indeed – which is precisely how the leaf-part often ends up being used by school-aged boys, battling for position in the pew. More sword than carpet swatch…a distraction rather than a tool of adulation for the Son of David making his glorious entrance into the Holy City.

I had occasion to enter the Holy City myself about a year ago, and there – just outside the Temple precinct – I encountered some intact palm fronds. They were impressively wide, and substantial. You could easily imagine them being cut from the trees…and then laid across a dusty path…to honor an incoming Prophet or King.

Full fronds of palm…suitable for providing the ‘green carpet’ treatment.

It helps to keep that image in mind, I think, as we drive-thru early on Palm Sunday to secure our laminae…and then assemble virtually to sing our Hosannas. This is the Body of Christ at work, clutching our palm blades individually. Only in the Spirit do our blades become one frond, capable of giving Jesus our full glory and praise.

If we sit with that mystery a bit, and savor it…we will find that Christ is with us, still – even in the separation and emptiness of this Holy Week. This strangest of Holy Weeks.

And not only with us, but perhaps Jesus is inviting us, too: Inviting us to embrace all this unprecedented emptiness, this calm. Inviting us to trust that God’s hand is at work, even if it leads us to the tomb.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem: Peering into the Tomb.

Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.


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5 thoughts on “Today’s find: Palms, becalmed

  1. Mary Kopuster

    Strange indeed, but spiritual in a big way.
    A new meaning to be separated from.
    It truly is the Holy Spirit.
    We set out palms and left red candles, a sense of comfort. A blessed holy week.

  2. Mary Heinsz

    John and I have been enjoying this time of sheltering in place. It has been an enriching spiritual time, filled with grace. We have heard nothing from our parish about palms, or anything else…yet we “virtually” travel around the country and world attending Mass. We truly are one, holy, catholic, apostolic church! Technology has been a blessing in so many ways during this time of Covid-19. Prayers for all our fellow pilgrims during the Oddest Holy Week EVER!

    • No palms at your parish, eh? That’s been one of the odd blessings in all this: to see how we (and our communities) are all the same and yet different. How we emphasize different ways to connect. How our talents FOR connecting differ. All one big mystical Body of Christ…

      • Mary Heinsz

        John, I must amend and say I looked online at our parish website, and they were having parishioners pass them out. You would drive up and they handed them to you. We decided it didn’t sound prudent or necessary. It wouldn’t affect our faith one way or the other. Hearing some vibrant homilies has been a blessing.

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