It's amazing how praying the Liturgy of the Hours infuses liturgical life with meaning that is deeper than one can get by thinking about things.
This Lent I've hosted Morning Prayer at our house every day. It's been a small group, but large numbers hold no particular fascination for me. What is good for me is that, being the host, I've actually prayed Morning Prayer every single day.
And today we hit Palm Sunday. Every year before this I've always been struck that this day seems out of place. There's this happy, sort of triumphant feel to the day. But Jesus is heading to the cross. I've half expected to find somewhere in the gospel "And the Lord was greatly ticked off with the rejoicing crowd, and smote them with the blast of his angry eye, saying 'Knowest thou not that I am totally in for it? Stop now all thy rejoicing and shut thyselves up.'" But there is nothing of the sort. We seem to focus on the fickle crowd, lauding Jesus one day and yelling "Crucify Him" a few days later, and this makes one see the praise they offer as shallow, meaningless, out of place.
But I hardly think so.
First, of course we don't know that the crowds were made up of the same people on Sunday and the following Friday.
Second, and more important, the way the crowd hailed Jesus, as the triumphant King, is absolutely appropriate. Sure, perhaps some acknowledged this truth by misunderstanding, wishing for him to be a political Messiah. Who, really, would have understood the full implications of their worship? Who of us do, now? But when we usher in Holy Week shouting "All glory, laud and honor" to the king, there is more to think about than how we turn our backs on Jesus in sin. We need to think about how we follow our King of Glory. And how is that? We suffer with Him. We give ourselves, we spend ourselves, we pour ourselves out until it hurts, transformed into His image by the very Eucharist we receive.
We fast. We feel the pain. We literally embrace the cross. We cry out in lamentation over great needs about which we can resolve nothing. We enter into the place of death, helplessness, drawn in by the Lord Himself.
And then, resurrection. There is nothing more shocking than life coming from death, nor, in Christ, is there anything more sure. We cannot give ourselves to God in a degree greater than He will give Himself back to us. He is the author of the covenant of mercy, the ocean of mercy. This calls for faith, and trust.
This whole week calls for mindful awareness. But even when we cannot begin to comprehend what is happening around us, we can make of ourselves a gift. And swept into new life, we will be.