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Palm Sunday

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From Mother Gilchrist’s chapter talk -- Palm Sunday

Today we enter the most solemn and sacred week of the year.  I want to interweave some words from our Cistercian Fathers Guerric and Bernard as I go along.  First of all, Guerric writes in his 3rd Sermon for Palm Sunday:

“Today’s procession and passion are considered together, in the one Jesus is seen as sublime and glorious, in the other as lowly and suffering.  In the procession he is thought of as receiving the honor of a king, in the passion he is seen undergoing the punishment of a thief.  In the one he is surrounded by glory and honor, in the other he has no form or comeliness.   In the one he is the joy and glory of the people, in the other he is scorned by men and despised by the people.” Guerric 3, 2:14-15[i]

And Guerric goes on with this beautiful passage which is like a koan, full of mystery and opposites to be contemplated with the heart.  How did Jesus, himself, feel, I wonder…knowing that shortly after this day which fulfilled so many of Israel’s expectations, He would be ridiculed, scorned and nailed as a thief?    How did He feel, riding that ass, being acclaimed with so much honor, knowing that all of this would soon be overturned?

As you know, there is a long Christian tradition of being a fool for Christ.  Bernard, in his Sermon 7 on Psalm 90, puts it another way.  Reflecting on the ass in the Palm Sunday Gospel, he sees us as the ass:

“Meanwhile, most beloved, glorify and bear Christ in your bodies; he is a delightful burden, a sweet weight, a salutary load, even though sometimes he may seem to weigh heavily and even though from time to time he whacks your flanks and whips the laggard, and occasionally even curbs you with bit and bridle and urges you successfully on.  Be like a beast of burden that carries the Savior, but do not be just like a beast…I know that a likeness to beasts is recommended to humans, but not one that consists in lack of intelligence, or in the imitation of the beast’s foolishness but rather of its patience.  Who would not envy greatly that beast on whose humble back the Savior graciously deigned to sit in order to recommend his own inexpressible gentleness?  Be like his beast of burden that patiently carries the burden, but that also understands the honor. “ (Sermon 7 on Psalm 90, # 3.)[ii]

But, as we follow through this week, we move more and more into the passion of Jesus.  I invite you to contemplate Jesus’ wounds.  And in writing about this, I cannot say it more eloquently than Guerric in the passage from his 3rd Sermon for Palm Sunday, one that you are very familiar with, where Guerric speaks of Christ’s wounds as the place that we must enter ourselves and find help:

“Go into the rock then . . . hide in the dug ground.  Make the Crucified your hiding-place.  He is the rock; he is the ground, he who is God and man.  He is the cleft rock, the dug ground, for ‘they have dug my hands and my feet.’  Hide in the dug ground …fly into him.”  “Rightly then the dove of Christ, Christ’s fair one, for whom his wounds have provided clefts so safe, so good for the building of a nest, sings his praises everywhere today with rejoicing.  Now you, my brethren, have built your nests the more deeply within the clefts of the rock the more secretly you live in Christ and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Guerric, Sermon 32, 5: 47-50 + 5:55-57)[iii]

Try to make of this week a kind of retreat.  Hide in the wounds of Christ.  Make them your dwelling place. 



[i] Guerric of Igny, Liturgical Sermons: Book 2.  Translated by Monks of Mt. St. Bernard’s Abbey.  Copyright 1971 by Cistercian Publications. Published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.  Used with permission.

[ii] Bernard of Clairvaux.  Lenten Sermons on the Psalm ‘He who dwells’ in Sermons on Conversion.  Translated by Marie-Bernard Saïd, OSB. Copyright 1981 by Cistercian Publications. Published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.  Used with permission.

[iii]Guerric of Igny, Liturgical Sermons: Book 2.  Translated by Monks of Mt. St. Bernard’s Abbey.  Copyright 1971 by Cistercian Publications. Published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.  Used with permission.

 

 I vår Herres Jesu Kristi kors er all vår ros.  I ham er vår frelse, vårt liv og vår oppstandelse:  ved ham er vi utfridd og frelst.

We should glory in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our resurrection; through him we are saved and made free.  (Gal 6,14)