Words of Light and Hope from Jane McLarty
Eamon Duffy describes the pre-Reformation celebration of Palm Sunday in his book ‘The Stripping of the Altars’: the people heard the story of Christ’s entry to Jerusalem read from John’s gospel. Flowers and green branches of yew, box or willow (but called palms) were blessed. There were processions round the church yard and anthems sung (the singers often dressed as Old Testament prophets with flowing beards!). Flowers were scattered in front of the procession carrying the Sacrament (representing the presence of Christ himself), another procession carried a cross. On their return to the church, the priest took the cross and struck the closed door with its foot, symbolically demanding entry for Christ.
Malcom Guite’s poem below meditates on Jesus’ arrival at the gate of our heart.
Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,
The seething holy city of my heart,
The saviour comes. But will I welcome him?
Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;
They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,
And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find
The challenge, the reversal he is bringing
Changes their tune. I know what lies behind
The surface flourish that so quickly fades;
Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,
The hardness of the heart, its barricades,
And at the core, the dreadful emptiness
Of a perverted temple. Jesus come
Break my resistance and make me your home.