Here, a few days in advance, is my parish bulletin column for Palm Sunday. Start scouting out now the best branches in your yard in preparation for our great feast.
Dear Friends at Saint Mary’s Immaculate Conception Parish and Saint Frances Cabrini Parish: Praised be Jesus Christ!
Today is Palm Sunday, even though we are not in church to celebrate it. Today, perhaps more than any other day so far of our virus-induced purgatory, the irony of this whole situation seems especially thick.
Palm Sunday is the day when Christ is acclaimed as King by the crowds accompanying him to Jerusalem, who are going up to the holy city for Passover. It is the day when we celebrate in ritual what the pilgrimage group would have spontaneously done as they crested the Mount of Olives, to descend down the slope heading into Jerusalem: they ran to the palms and olive trees along the roadside, broke off branches, and waved them before Jesus. It is a gesture for someone who reigns, and whose very presence alters the existence of those around him. It is a gesture for kings. For those who wear crowns. In the case of the Lord, the only crown he would ultimately wear, as this Holy Week will again show, is one of thorns and suffering. Yet, in his loving acceptance of it, and of that crown, he will triumph.
You may know, that our word for “crown” comes from the Latin word for crown which is: “Corona.” The origins of the common word for our current viral scourge are rooted in similar etymology.
Right now, the virus called Corona is king. It has altered all of our existence around itself with unparalleled power. It has even dethroned public worship on this Palm Sunday.
So, I think that today a fitting way for us to begin Holy Week, since we cannot walk in procession in church as we normally would, is to stage our own, ritual protest against the Corona virus. Like the crowds that welcomed the real King, Jesus, to Jerusalem, it is important for us to welcome Christ as the real King over suffering, death, and despair.
I encourage today any family who wishes to do so, to go out into your yards, to cut or break off a pine branch, or any branch that belongs to your own property, and march in procession in the grass, proclaiming as loud as you may wish: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” This virus is only king temporarily. Christ wears the true corona. He is our eternal king. Today we acclaim him so, with all of our hearts, in any ritual that we can offer.