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Meditations on Palm Sunday



Today is Palm Sunday, and I watched mass at San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas. The ceremony covered Holy Week down to and including Good Friday. Thus next Sunday, Easter, will be a day of pure joy. The story commemorated this week is deeply moving. It is unique in human history. Let me say that even in theology I am a mugwump, with my own interpretation of these events, so I am not speaking from a sectarian viewpoint. Purple was the color of the day. The ceremony began in front of the cathedral, where the faithful picked up palm fronds blessed with holy water. Then they marched into the cathedral, led by Christ on a donkey, or should I say ass, on wheels. Jesus insisted that the ass had not been mounted before. Interpret this symbolism as you will- Matthew speaks of "a colt, the foal of an ass". "Colt" normally refers to a young horse, but it can be applied to other animals, including donkeys. "Foal" means young, speaking of the same animals. So it was a young donkey., or rather two young donkeys. Why two? The symbolism of all this escapes me, although that of Christ riding one rather than a horse is obvious.

The voice of the people is the voice of God? Nonsense. There were three groups: those who hailed Christ on Palm Sunday, those who wanted him crucified, and a group of wobblies who hailed him on Palm Sunday but then changed sides when they saw which one would prevail. This is typical of politics. Many of the Iraqis hailing our Marines were doubtless applauding Saddam Hussein as long as he had power. Who condemned Jesus? Was it the mob or the priests who incited it? Both. It was not Pontius Pilate, who should have listened to his conscience and to his wife. Did Christ really die on the cross? There was surprise that he had died so quickly. Some think that his body given to Joseph of Arimathaea really was still alive. One widely held belief is that he recovered from his wounds and went to India, where he had spent the years about which we know little. According to this version, he died there, but as far as I know no place in India claims to be the site of his burial.

The high priest who incited the mob is in the same class as Spain's grand inquisitor. What do Jews rtíthink about him? What do Jews think about Jesus?-- a complicated subject. Reverence for Jesus is built into Islam, so Christians are closer to Muslims than to Jews. The Jews who thought Jesus was a fraud were expecting a Messiah who would restore the worldly glory of Solomon. There are still some Jews who are awaiting such a Messiah. They may have to be satisfied with Sharon. Perhaps Sharon thinks he is the Messiah. Otherwise the attitude of the Jews toward Jesus goes from the reverence of Jews for Jesus to a totally negative attitude. I have a Jewish friend for whom I have great respect, but his attitude toward Jesus is totally irreverent. Jesus supposedly arose into heaven, but, since he was circumcised, his foreskin remained on earth, and, according to my Jewish friend, was preserved and revered as a relic in some church. He finds this story funny. Can anyone tell us more about this relic? There must be a book on the complex attitude of Jews toward Jesus. We would like a title

Religion is primarily a matter of faith, e.g. emotion, and this Christian emotion has inspired the greatest music on earth, notably "The Messiah". This is the week when it should be performed. Has it been or will it be in the area where you live? I have seen no reference to it in the Stanford/Palo Alto area.

A linguistic footnote. I have long been puzzled by the English words cheek, cheeky, meaning insolent. In Spanish there is the corresponding "cara dura",hard face. They must originally have had a favorable meaning, as was evident in today's lesson from Isaiah. Turn your head as hard as stone to receive the blows of your oppressors.

Ronald Hilton - 4/13/03


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