Hosanna! We sung as we waved palms in triumph and were sprinkled with water. Jesus has come to Jerusalem to go to the Temple to pray. He will upset the marketplace and before week’s end will experience betrayals, desertion, and ultimately his suffering and death.
But Hosanna! Stick with this guy. Go and find the Upper Room and make ready for eating and drinking. Make merry, for the feast is close at hand! For Palm Sunday is also erev Pesach (Passover Eve).
And while orthodox Jews are forbidden to travel on the Sabbath, it's no small feat for a Roman Catholic to brave Sunday driver traffic from VA to NYC to bring his Jewish wife and daughter (soon to be fully initiated into the church) to the home of her sister.
"Greetings, Mary and Martha!
I have come to pay respects to Lazarus on the Lord's Day."
These simple and cyclical rituals of feast gathering and storytelling are legion in the human family. We gather, share stories and meal, and go forth inspired by such events on many a holiday or simple outing. But when we take a moment to contemplate this particular season and celebration in our lives and our relationship with God--drink the wellsprings of “living water”, see God’s plan anew, and experience God’s glory in human history--covenants are renewed and promises fulfilled.
As one of the Lectors on Palm Sunday, I read,
“Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
For on the night after we heard of his Passion in church, we became “wandering Arameans” lost in the desert until God spoke and made His covenant with Abram and to his ancestors. Our Catholic members during the Easter Triduum will hear these same stories anew. But on Passover Night, which is different than all other nights, Hosanna is Haggadah (“the telling”) of how God with “mighty deeds and outstretched hands” delivered a people from slavery, called them to be his own (EX 6:6-7) and gave them the Torah.
For on this night, my daughter who shies from her First Communion at the Vigil because of the taste of wine, will raise four cups during the Passover Seder. She will mingle her fingers in matzot (unleavened bread) dip into other ritual temple foods. She will ask the great “Four Questions” and her Jewish family and ancestors will answer. We will gather with family and friends, we will hear and tell the Story of Passover, we will share a sacred and satisfying meal. We will experience again God’s glory in human history.
Come gather for this “Last Supper” of our ancestors where we will wash each other’s hands (not feet!), break unleavened bread and share the (many) cups! And go forth in joyful expectancy of the coming of Elijah and more importantly God’s future and fulfillment of his promises.
We close with shalom (peace). We return to a church noticeably different. Holy Thursday we prepare for and celebrate a sacred meal that is prescient and familiar. It leaves the altar bare. And just as we wandered home from NYC, we wander about the church processing here and there until we finally come to rest in the chapel. There with the reserved host we pray awhile with the Lord before he is taken from us. (Or rather, before we leave him behind).
We return on Good Friday to a stark church. The tabernacle is empty. The Eternal Flame is extinguished. The priest holds high a cross “on which hung our savior!” O come, let us adore! We venerate, we kneel, we listen to the Passion again. And from the distance, our afikoman(last morsel of matzah) is found and brought to our humble table so that we might take and eat.
So that we might do as our ancestors.
“Do this in memory of me!” Until he comes in glory!
Saturday our burning bush is a simple fire in the Francis’ Garden. The Holy Spirit comes down into the flames, lighting our darkness, lighting our Easter Candle.
“Christ our light! Thanks be to God!”
The Great Vigil has begun.
Come enter the darkness of the church illuminated by the Easter Candle. Look how the light travels from one to another. See how the church is illumined, lighting the way for us to renew our baptismal life or to be made new for the very first time. Let the fire part the waters of the font and bless them so that the newly baptized may cross through unharmed, die to sin, and rise to new life. Baptized by his sacrifice, sealed in his Spirit, we come together again to eat and drink. And make merry in the face of death!
The cross is our triumph. Our Redeemer lives! Tomorrow in the light of day we may hunt for eggs or wear pretty sun dresses. But tonight, we are simply His own. And as I pour my coffee on Monday morning I taste and see the goodness of the Lord! He burns within my heart as when I first set out to Emmaus and breathlessly returned to share the Good News!
There were guests who could not come at Passover because of health, illness, and even death. On that very night, the Angel of the Lord passed by the home of a relative nearby and took her father in law.
Upon our return to Virginia, I received news that a parishioner and organ donor recipient was undergoing a three-day treatment to stave off organ rejection. What hope we place in what God might accomplish in three days!
So we return again and again, as we will during the Great 50 Days following Easter Sunday to gather, to tell stories, to do this in memory, and to await the Holy Spirit.
Passover often comes to a close with the exclamation “Next Year in Jerusalem!” Next year, Passover and Easter Vigil fall on the same day.
What journeys have you taken this past week, or month or year to come to know the fulfillment of God’s promises?
How have you faltered in your approach to Easter or in God’s relationship with you?
How might you run ahead to the Empty Tomb, to see and believe?
How has God left you breathless?
Copyright 2014, Jay Cuasay
About the Author
Jay Cuasay is a freelance writer on religion, interfaith relations, and culture. A post-Vatican II Catholic father with a Jewish spouse, he is deeply influenced by Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism. He was a regular columnist on Catholicism for examiner.com and a moderator and contributor to several groups on LinkedIn. His LTEs on film and Jewish Catholic relations have been published in America and Commonweal. Jay ministered to English and Spanish families at a Franciscan parish for 13 years. He can be reached at TribePlatypus.com.