We gathered in the school gym across from the Cathedral as we do every year on this day. The children are giddy as we pick out our palm fronds to wave. Parishioners aren’t obstructed by pews, excited to see friends and family. The gym is full of electricity as we look forward to join the processional across the street and into the church. The Archbishop has come for this special occasion and blesses our palms. We follow the cross, the Archbishop and our Priest out of the gym into the sunshine to proceed to the church, trumpets blasting on all sides of us. The children are in pure delight, waving the fronds as we sing joyfully “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in excelsis!”
As we approach the Cathedral, we stall as the pathway becomes narrow, there is a corridor ahead lined with the choir to join our singing. The mood begins to shift as our gait slows, those nervous of crowds, tense as we are packed tighter to walk through the corridor ahead. Then I hear it. On the other side of the Cathedral. Bagpipes. I had forgotten. Each year on Palm Sunday, a bagpiper in full regalia plays during this procession. I don’t know if it is because I am part Scottish, as the sound of bagpipes stirs in me a sense of longing for a connection to a country and a family I never knew or if it is my association of bagpipes with funerals, but my heart drops. I am reminded that at the end of this Holy Week, Christ will be on the cross.
I look at the joyous faces of the choir, eager to join the celebration, now appear jeering as I am reminded that this same jubilant crowd who welcomed Him into Jerusalem would be shouting “Crucify Him!” later in the week. I begin to cry. As if we are thinking the same thing, my 6-year-old looks up at me and asks “Mommy, did Jesus know He was going to die?” I answer, “Yes, son, He did.” I imagine myself as Christ on that donkey looking out on these faces with more compassion than I can muster.
I am reminded of my own faith, so enthusiastic and then waning. Even at the beginning of this Lenten season, I was so eager to give, to return to basics, to listen. But…my excitement dwindled. I know come Friday I would have been standing with the crowd calling for His death, even after celebrating His glory just days before.
We enter into the Cathedral to begin Mass. In years past I have dreaded standing during the entire Luke reading accounting the entire Passion: Today it is the very least I can do to honor Him. I enter Holy Week with a heavy heart but looking forward to saying "Alleluia" next Sunday for the 1st time in 40 days and truly meaning it.