Hosanna to the Son of David!
Palm Sunday 2012. The day is bright and hot and sunny. And at the Church of Saint Michael and Saint George this morning, Dorabella the Donkey was munching on the grass as the congregation used bulletins as fans in the morning warmth and heavy sunshine.
O mysterious condescending!
O abandonment sublime!
Very God himself is bearing all the sufferings of time!
~William J. Sparrow-Simpson
How quickly the sounds change on Palm Sunday from ‘hosanna’ to ‘crucify!’. The psalm and the gospel both point toward the week ahead. “O go not from me; for trouble is hard at hand, and there is none to help me, ” says the psalmist in Coverdale‘s translation (Ps. 22.11). (Are any translations more poetic than Coverdale? I think not.)
On this Sunday, we foreshadow Good Friday as the temple curtain is torn in two. We shall visit this again, but not before several days of meditative Evensongs and Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, one of the most symbolic days of the church year.
And at the offertory, we hearken back for a moment to the triumphal entry:
Ride on, ride on in majesty!
The winged squadrons of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
then take, o God, thy power and reign.
John Ireland‘s hymn tune LOVE UNKOWN may well be one of the most perfect hymn tunes ever written. The melding of text and music is achingly lovely (as is Rob Lehman’s tune for Psalm 22).
Here might I stay and sing, no story so divine:
never was love, dear King, never was grief like thing.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise I all my days could gladly spend.
Another near-perfection is Pablo Casals’ setting of Lamentations 1.12: “O all ye who pass along this way, behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.” I could sing that anthem every day, especially the baritone first few measures with the glorious suspension on ‘qui transitis.’
Although Palm Sunday isn’t over, since we have a Passion Vespers yet to sing, the service closed with a text that I don’t know as well, with words by Peter Abelard (1079-1142):
Our sins, not thine, thou bearest, Lord;
make us thy sorrow feel,
till through our pity and our shame
love answers love’s appeal.
Grant us with thee to suffer pain that,
as we share this hour,
thy cross may bring us to they joy
and resurrection power.