St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Palm Sunday 2009

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Can I remind you of a Greek word anamnesis, remembrance, not forgetting?    It is the opposite of amnesia – loss of memory.  When the Hebrews make remembrance of their Passing Over they recall the great events of their liberation from the Land of Egypt by reciting their story at a meal.  Then it becomes not just a story about their forefathers but about them too.   It is they who are united across time with the people being led out of captivity into freedom.   Their liberation becomes theirs as they dwell and sink into it. 

Making remembrance, anamnesis, is about recalling what happened then so as to be present to it now so that it can have an effect on us in the present.

Today, Palm Sunday is the beginning of a particular remembrance.  We make remembrance in this Holy Week by recalling all that happened to Jesus and being present to it.

The liturgies of the Sacred Triduum - Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter - are the Christian peoples’ ‘not forgetting’, a kind of ‘not forgetting’. The liturgies put before us and incorporate us into this story if we will make ourselves present to the events leading to the resurrection; if we will go in heart and mind (to use words from a Christmas Bidding) even unto Jerusalem and see this thing which is come to pass.
This remembrance is an extended dramatic contemplation with its recitation of narrative accompanied by symbol gestures: ritual that draws you and me into a dynamic.  It is one liturgy (there is no introduction and greeting on Good Friday and at The Easter Vigil – it is one long liturgical remembrance over three days.
And to be present to these great events is rather like being alongside a Beloved who is dying.  For that is what is happening.

To be alongside a loved one who is dying, whose life is ebbing away; (to enter in on this week) attending to Another, the Beloved, is to notice how the rest of life, falls into relief; how the hours stretch out, the emptiness, the silence.   Meal times change, the normal routine is changed to accommodate the needs and your attention to Another.

And there is a variety of reactions in you.  You may notice that you are drawn to God, wanting more; at times you may notice that your attention wanes and you become restless, seeking distraction. One doesn’t quite know what to do as you watch and wait.   We are so used to distraction, so used to distracting ourselves.

You may notice that you feel confused, even bored, as something else, something more than our preoccupations takes their place.  You may want to stay away from the one who is dying – you end up thinking too much.  It’s laborious - this dying business.

You may not simply be able to stop work altogether this week, but underneath the stuff of life, try to keep the mood of the week in your heart. 

My God is going to his death for me.  Eshew entertainment.  We are entertainment driven and virtuosos at finding it. Avoid the habitual socialising. Hold onto the feelings to enter a different pace.

We do this not in some kind of morbid belief that suffering is good or as some macabre baroque devotion.  We do it in order to be close to the one we love because He has loved us.  Here, in these contemplations, is our God in Christ pouring out his life for you and me.  We stay by him, we linger so that we may receive new insight, about who he is and – and also of course - who we are.

And we do this because these events hold some Truth, some fruit for us.  God in Christ is accomplishing the salvation of all the world.  What is that like for me?   Dare I find out? 

There is nothing to get right.  It is simply a matter of being and noticing, wondering and attending to Another; being present, entering in on the unfolding remembrance, the liturgies put before us. 
And this is strange, dramatically counter-cultural.  The Truth of who God is to us cannot be gained by effort or acquisition.  It cannot be grasped.  It is not a theological theory but a relationship.  It has to be surrendered to, entered upon.

At a death-bed of a beloved, you cannot do anything, except hold a hand, wait, pray.  You are drawn towards being there with the beloved.  You find yourself powerless with them.  And the memories come flooding back, the gratitude, but also the regret; the joys fulfilled but also the hope for more – eternity, reunion, resurrection.

Where expectations of what we think ought to be die, hope is born; where life is given up, new life is restored.  Where time is wasted, something deeper is gained.  As Jesus is stripped, his glory is revealed.  As Jesus is de-humanised the glory of his divinity is apparent.  The worst that humanity can do in striking God, the more the living fountain of life flows.

It is to this strange mystery of willing powerlessness that we are called to attend to.   Jesus knowingly gives himself into the hands of others.
What will that mean to you?



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