Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 49, “Entry Into Jerusalem”

Dear friend,

Palm Sunday. Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of an ass. Throngs laying fronds at his feet. It is one of the indelible scenes of the Gospel narrative that has stuck with me from childhood days in the Congregational Church.

Now, an aging Catholic, I smile to pick up my palm leaves at the rear of the church on the Sunday before Easter and clutch them throughout the Mass. The image is not directly connected in my mind with what will happen five days later: the Crucifixion. Nor with the fact that the palms will be burned and rubbed as ash on my forehead at the beginning of next Lent. For a moment, Jesus is king, riding high, hailed by the crowds.

Romano Guardini brings us back to reality. “Suppose,” he writes, “a high-ranking Roman officer in shining armor had trotted by just then on his blooded mount, his orderly troop behind him, a fragment of that great army which bore the power of Rome across the world. What would he have thought had he seen the poorly dressed man on his donkey, a coat as a saddle, the heterogeneous crowd about him? The thought hurts, but that is how it was.”

And of course the Jewish leaders rejected Christ, and the crowds followed suit. Five days later, the mobs cried “Crucify him!”

“How difficult it is to recognize the self-revealing God!” Guardini notes, ending this chapter. “How difficult to steer clear of the scandal to the worldly sense of propriety and righteousness!”

There is a more striking point made early on in “Entry to Jerusalem,” which begins Part V of The Lord, “The Last Days.” It is that this whole scene of a “king” seated upon an ass was prophesied centuries before it happened. That in fact the whole drama of God’s incarnate life on earth was foretold by men inflamed with the Holy Spirit, who wrote down their fire in books titled Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, et al. What do I make of this? I throw aside the wonder of a child at seeing a king on a donkey in favor of adult amazement that, what, history has divine meaning?

This is worth meditating on. As is this amazing passage from the middle of the chapter, with which I will close only because I don’t yet know what to think or say about it:

“The prophetic experience lifts the historical barriers that hem in ordinary lives. Living in history, we experience only the present, the immediate. . . Moving in prophecy, the Holy Spirit dissolves all limitations and enables the prophet, from his new, unhindered vantage-point, to see simultaneously what was, what is, and what is to be. . . .

“Living in history, our interior life is hidden from one another. It is impossible to see, understand, grasp the innerlife of another, save when it is self-revealed. This is also well; it is the foundation of modesty and respect and enables us to act, to take chances, to participate in the shaping of our destinies. If the inner existence stood open to view, history would be impracticable, for it can play its role only among masked players. In eternity, where souls are transparent, history no longer exists.”

Be well, my friend,
WB

This series of posts continues here with chapter 50.

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