• Holy Week: Chapter 1: Palm Sunday

    by  • 4 April 2020 • Extract, Holy Week, Religion, The Christian Community • 1 Comment

    Here at Floris Books, we want to do all we can to support our community during these difficult times. To that end, we’re sharing a new chapter of Emil Bock’s Holy Week: A Spiritual Guide from Palm Sunday to Easter for every day of the 2020 Easter Holy Week. Check back each day for the next entry.

    Holy Week will guide you from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It will help bring the events of Easter alive, and provides opportunities for prayer and contemplation. Each day is accompanied by a gospel reading.

    As a special thank you for joining us throughout the week, we are also offering 20% discount on copies of the book when you order from our website. Simply enter special offer code HW0420 at checkout.

    Matthew 21:1–11

    The entry into Jerusalem

    And they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage by the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus sent two disciples ahead (2) and said to them,  Go to the village which you see before you. There you will straight away find an ass tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. (3) And if anyone says anything to you, then say: The Lord needs them. Then he will let you take them at once.’ (4) The word of the prophet was to be fulfilled:

    (5) Say to the daughter Zion:

    See, your king comes to you in majesty.

    He rides on an ass and on the foal of the beast of burden.

    (6) The disciples went and did what Jesus had told them; (7) they brought the ass and the colt and laid their garments on them and he sat on them. (8) Many in the crowd spread their clothes on the road, others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. (9) And the crowds which went before him and followed him called out loudly:

    Hosanna, sing to the Son of David!

    Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord!

    Sing to him in the highest heights!

    (10) As he entered Jerusalem in this way, the whole town was stirred and said,  ‘Who is he?’ (11) And the crowd said,  ‘It is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’

    Palm Sunday

    Christ enters the holy city on the first day of Holy Week. It is at first an unpretentious sight. He rides through the gate of the city upon an ass, followed by his faithful believers. But suddenly, as though he were the god of spring himself, his entry creates a frenzy in the souls of the people. It is as though the crowd were seized with the ecstasy of a pagan spring festival. Primitive rites are revived when the people cast down palm branches from the trees. The palm has always ranked as the tree-symbol of the sun which shines in the spring sky with renewed strength. The crowd spread his path with the symbol of the sun. Is he in fact perhaps the friend and lord of the sun who has been promised to man as the great king of the light? Is the original spiritual significance of the city of Jerusalem to be released from enchantment, the city which sheltered on Mount Zion one of the oldest sun-sanctuaries of humanity, before it was overshadowed by Mount Moriah, the Mount of the moon, with the Temple of Solomon? Has the time of Melchizedek, the great sun-initiate, come back?

    It would appear as though the Christ had now really found entrance into humanity. The high sun-spirit has already lived for three years in a human body and undergone earthly destiny. He held back and kept silence; and whenever he stepped forward he was met with hostility and lack of understanding. Is all this now to take a new direction? Is destiny to find a solution in an ecstatic jubilation?

    No, this is the beginning of the most solemn week in human history. The same men who strew palms and break forth into fervid Hosannas will shriek with fanatical hatred a few days later: ‘Crucify him! crucify him!’ The cross on Golgotha, the symbol of death, will companion the palm branch, the symbol of life. It is Christ himself who brings about the sudden reversal of feeling. He passes through the ecstatic crowd in silence, with grave countenance. He sees through the acclamations; they are merely superficial, and he aims at deeper levels. His will is directed to something very different.

    One might ask why Jesus did not stay in Galilee, in his home, especially at the time when the country round the Sea of Galilee blooms in all the miraculous colours of spring? Yes, if he had stayed in Galilee he would have remained alive. But one might just as well ask: Why did not Christ remain as a god in the heavenly worlds? His whole being found its meaning in making this renunciation. To make his entry into Jerusalem, knowing that in so doing he threw down the gauntlet to his enemies, was to complete his entry into the earthly world. The events of the first day of this solemn week corresponded, on another level, to those that had marked the inception of his earthly path. As at that time he forsook the heavens, so now he forsakes the glory of Galilee. It made no stir among men as Christ descended from the heavenly spheres to earth. Even John the Baptist, who played the role of priest at this entry into earth existence, scarcely noticed anything of what took place as Jesus of Nazareth became bearer and vessel of the Christ. But it was proclaimed in the spheres above humankind. The words rang out: ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ And on Palm Sunday, in this strange hour of ferment and exaltation, the event is acclaimed by men. The Hosanna of the ecstatic mob corresponds to the word which once sounded out of spiritual heights. Suddenly the people feel that he who comes riding on the ass’s foal is not merely man. It is as though the folk-soul broke through and perceived the shining radiance, the sun-aura, that blazed forth from the figure of Jesus. For three years the divine nature of Christ had had to hold back, or it would have overwhelmed men with its power. But now this holding back bears its fruit. The divine element, which had sacrificed itself in humility to the human, is transformed into powerful resolution of the will. To begin with, the divine in him radiated through the human; but now the human nature is consumed in the fire of God. It is this scintillating fire of the will which scatters kindling sparks among the crowd. The people are seized with the presentiment of a revolutionary Passover feast, but they can only take it to mean a political springtide of the nation.

    The Christ knows better. Into the holy city, that quintessence of the whole pre-Christian evolution of humanity, he bears something which is different from everything that earth can bring forth from herself. It is a seed which must change the world from the very foundations. The reaction may seem like a tremor of assent, but a few days more and it is plain that this superficial mood can curse as easily as bless. The earthly vessel into which Christ entered at the baptism can ultimately bring him only death. The city which cries Hosanna can at last only nail him to the cross.

    The spark springs across, but the Christ goes calmly through the waves of enthusiasm and acclamation. He will make his entry on deeper levels. How wonderful is the sun when it rises in the morning and brings the day to birth. Yet this external sun with which man as a natural being is connected sets again each evening. When the height of summer has passed, it withdraws from the earth and its strength fades away. So it is with human life; at some moment of time each of us must die, no matter how vivacious we were in childhood and youth. Palm Sunday is the day of the old sun, the natural sun; Easter Sunday will be the day of the new sun, the spiritual sun. This spiritual sun does not set; it is steadfast and enduring. It can, moreover, be found more easily in times of difficulty, indeed, in sickness and death, than in happiness or in the carefree days of childhood. Christ enters the old Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but he carries the new Jerusalem into the setting, dying world. Christ desires to kindle the new sun, which is steadfast, true and omnipresent deep within the earth and humankind. This is the way that leads from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, from the old sun to the new.

    The story of the entry into Jerusalem shows how insufficient all ecstatic conditions are. It is certainly right that we should be joyful in the glory of spring, when we are among children and when we encounter youth and love. This natural enthusiasm assuredly must not be rejected.

    But it is dangerous if it is mistaken for the reality of life. Purely natural enthusiasm springs from the body only; it touches the level of the spirit only for fleeting moments. True enthusiasm, one that does not rapidly pass from the Hosanna to the crucify, is not formed from below upwards, but from above downwards. True enthusiasm is born when the spiritual takes root in human nature; when the spark of the spirit comes to earthly realization and incarnation.

    Continue to Chapter 2: Monday in Holy Week

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