April 8, 2017
“After they had crucified him,
they divided his garments by casting lots;
then they sat down and kept watch over him there.” (Mt 27:35-6)
Palm Sunday begins our time of keeping watch over Jesus. On this day, suddenly, as if without warning, we are confronted by the passion in its entirety. You would think that we would be ready for this. For more than a week we have been hearing liturgical rumbles of controversy, conflict and plots. We have been exposed to laments from the prophet Jeremiah and Lamentations. We have the image of the Crucified on our walls and our bodies all year round. But there always seems to be something shocking about Palm Sunday. Perhaps it is the jarring combination of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Perhaps it is that we become too accustomed to our crucifixes and their real significance fades away from our consciousness. Perhaps it is that it suddenly becomes personal: someone we know, someone we love, is suffering.
In any case, this day brings us back to “look on the one whom [we] have pierced” (Zech 12:10). Let us keep looking, keeping watch every day this week, until we hear another passion gospel read on Good Friday. If we look with the Cistercian Father, Guerric of Igny, we may receive an invitation to come closer to the Wounded One. We may be called to step through the door he opens in his side, and enter into the heart of mercy. If so, let us step in, not alone, but with all people of the world, for whom he has prepared a place.
“Blessed is he who, in order that I might be able to build a nest in the clefts of the rock, allowed his hands, feet and side to be pierced and opened himself to me wholly that I might enter “the place of his wonderful tent” and be protected in its recesses. The rock is a convenient refuge for the badgers, but it is also a welcome dwelling-place for the doves. These clefts, so many open wounds all over his body, offer pardon to the guilty and bestow grace on the just. Indeed it is a safe dwelling-place, my brethren, and a tower of strength in the face of the enemy, to linger in the wounds of Christ, the Lord, by devout and constant meditation.
… Go into the rock, then, man, hide in the dug ground. Make the Crucified your hiding-place. He is the rock, he is the ground, he who is God and man. He is the cleft rock, he is the dug ground, for “they have dug my hands and my feet.” Hide in the dug ground from the fear of the Lord, that is, from him fly to him, from the judge to the redeemer. … Rather, do not fly only to him, but into him, go into the clefts of the rock, hide in the dug ground, hide yourself in the very hands that were cleft, in the side that was dug. For what is the wound in Christ’s side but a door in the side of the Ark for those who are to be saved from the flood… For in his loving kindness and his compassion he opened his side in order that the blood of the wound might give you life, the warmth of his body revive you, the breath of his heart flow into you as if through a free and open passage. There you will be hidden in safety until wickedness passes by. There you will certainly not freeze, since in the bowels of Christ charity does not grow cold.”
(Guerric of Igny, Fourth Sermon for Palm Sunday)