Greek Orthodox Palm Sunday Procession in Jerusalem
Greek Orthodox Palm Sunday Procession in Jerusalem
Palm Sunday Icon
KiKi Smith — Processional Cross
The Cross is in Christian imagery a mandala* – a fourfold, concentric shape. The arms of Christ outstretched on it symbolize the whole of creation being embraced by Christ while the place where the four arms of the cross join is the Center. There are, of course, many mandalas found in religions all over the world, suggesting, as Jung has shown, that everywhere life strives for wholeness and completion.
There are also many other religions in which the symbol of the cross plays an important role, as Jung has also shown in his many writings. But the Christian cross is a little different, because it is fixed into the ground. The reason that one of the extensions of the cross is longer than the others is because it is grounded. This fixedness in the ground of the Christian cross relates to its rootedness in human life. Mystically speaking, we are the ground in which the mystery of the cross is to be grounded. Then and then only does the mystery become realized. When a person goes through the mysterion, the mystical initiation into the hidden significance of the cross, then the cross has become real, that is, has been grounded in actual human existence.
* from Sanskrit, a circle. a circular design containing concentric geometric forms, images of deities, etc. and symbolizing the universe, totality, or wholeness in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Certain things can not happen unless something dies.
John Sanford — From Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language, p. 174f.
Why do we come here today? What is there to say after such a powerful reading? Do we come to do a memorial service for Jesus as we can do for any number of long dead heroes? No. Nor do we come to feel sorry for poor Jesus, who suffered and died. Christians do not gather year after year on this day pretending that they do not know how the story turns out. What we come to do is to remember — remember with power — the sort of remembering that transforms.
We are like a person who suddenly remembers that they put a hundred-dollar bill in a secret place in their wallet. Suddenly his circumstance has changed. The memory opens the way to a way of being, impossible only moments earlier. The memory is a memory of power because putting the hundred-dollar bill in the wallet is an event in the past the effect of which is going in the present.
We come to remember in this way the saving acts of God in history. The acts we celebrate this day are rooted in history: Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, a real, razor backed, little, donkey. He is acclaimed King. He is arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to die on a cross. For Christians this is the event which changes everything: The Son of God came in the flesh and was willing to suffer and die in order that all people for all time could be restored to authentic humanity. His coming among us in the flesh has made the difference. Why did He do this?
Paul writes to the Christians in Philippi: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross….”
Here Paul quotes what may be the oldest known Christian hymn. God was and is continually self-giving. That is the whole meaning of creation. Creation is only possible because God decided to no longer be all that there is. The Jews call this Zim Zum: or the contraction. God limited Himself in order for creation to freely exist.
It is this equality with God that Jesus displayed on the Cross. It is this equality with God that marks authentic humanity. This equality with God, He shares with those who believe in him.
Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, p. 500, v.5, Post Nicene Fathers. “…This is the very thing we learn from the figure of the Cross; it is divided into four parts, so that there are the projections, four in number, from the central point where the whole converges upon itself; because He Who at the hour of his pre-arranged death was stretched upon it is He Who binds together all things into Himself, and by Himself brings to one harmonious agreement the diverse natures of actual existences.
This Cross brings all things into the order and balance that God intended in creation. As Joseph Campbell says in THE POWER OF MYTH, (p. 116) “The sign of the cross has to be looked upon as a sign of an eternal affirmation of all that ever was or shall ever be. It symbolizes not only the one historic moment on Calvary but the mystery through all time and space of God’s presence and participation in the agony of all living things.”
Today we come to remember, remember with power that life comes through death. Today we come to remember that regardless of what is wrong in us, between us, around us, that the Cross reconciles all of it. We may not see the evidence of that in the way that we want. But we believe that such wholeness is ultimately the end of all things.
Therefore if we believe this then let us live like it. Today and everyday let us live as if all will be well. The past year I have been slowly reading the prayers and poems of a woman named Julia Esquivel. She is an exile from her native Guatemala, where she is a target of the death squads. Her book is entitled, THREATENED WITH RESURRECTION.
I AM NOT AFRAID OF DEATH
– Julia Esquivel, desde el exilio