I am posting this retrospectively but in this brief Palm Sunday homily I hoped to frame what our journey through Holy Week and Easter would be like - we inhabit the mystery
of the Passion; we journey with Christ ... no wonder that after Easter many of us feel that we have been 'through a wringer'!
It was a Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral London who, believing himself dying, amidst the anxiety of his sickness, composed a poem to give some shape and order to his thoughts in his last days. Understanding himself on the cusp of reality, and about to be drawn through the membrane of our finitude in this world, he wrote:
"Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before."
(John Donne 1572-1631, ‘Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness’)
This is not a bad introduction to what we do on Palm Sunday and indeed throughout this Holy Week. On Palm Sunday we begin to enter into the deep heart of the story of the Love of God, that love Dante (The Paradiso) described as the “Love, that moves the sun and the other stars”. Of course we like to think we know the story, but that’s the problem; we are so limited in our capacity and so encased in our finitude and understanding, that it is a major task to stir us into something like spiritual consciousness! All that we do this week draws us into the story: our readings, our processions, hymns, the various services and the special rituals of each day are a preparation of heart and mind to turn us toward the reality of God. Recalling C. S. Lewis’s Narnia, today is the time when we start to open the wardrobe door, push at all those things that are in the way, and sense the air of the mystery and the wonder of the unimaginable love that draws us.
So we take our palm crosses and walk in procession singing “All glory, laud and honour” but all this is just to set us in the story and to nudge us toward the mystery of Love incarnate. We carry our crosses as tangible signs to help direct our disordered minds, our tepid hearts, our sluggish souls toward the wonder of the Love that enfolds us. In all we do this day and through this week we press against the membrane of illusion, the carapace of finitude, that blinds us to the Holy that is reality itself.
Donne said ‘I tune the instrument at the door’; we too now seek to ‘tune our hearts and minds’ so we may become God’s music. That is our work this Holy Week.