This is from the Palm Sunday Email on the Lenten email exploration of the Cataphatic-Apophatic. If you would like to receive the last couple emails in this series, email email@example.com
Palm Sunday is celebrated one week before Easter. It is a commemoration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Today’s spiritual exercise combines elements of Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading) and visualization. This is a very cataphatic practice, dependent, as it is, on the words.
This practice begins with a reading of the entry in each of the four gospels. It is rather lengthy and cumulative in nature. I invite you to go as far and deep as you desire. Particularly if you are going to return to this practice daily (the next email will arrive Wednesday) you might wish to stop at some point along the way each day, and go a bit further each day you return to it.
- Find a comfortable space. Inhale. Exhale.
2. Read Mathew 21: 1-11. The NIV translation is below. If you prefer a different translation, by all means use that one. As you read this first account, simply read for an over-arching understanding.
They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]
“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
- Take another deep breath. Read the second account: Mark 11: 1-11. This time, try and furnish the details of what it might have looked like. Take a moment to create this image in your mind and really see the colors and surroundings.
When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts.
4. As you read the following passage from Luke, 19: 28-44 do your best to hear the sounds. Imagine the tone, volume, and timbre of the voices as they say these things. Place other sounds in the scene. Try and add this to the picture you formed from the last reading. It is not important that your imagining is historically accurate.
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.
Take a deep breath in and out. As you read the following account (which comes from John 12:12-19) place yourself somewhere within the scene. Furnish sensations of smell, touch and taste: Imagine the temperature, the texture of your clothes on your skin. Consider the scents that might be in the air or the residue of flavors left on your tongue in such a scene.
The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[e]
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
“Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”[f]
16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign,went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
- Breathe again, deeply.
7. Ask God if there is anything you should be noticing from these accounts.
8. Re-read one or more of them. Spend some time with God on what you might be meant to learn, here.
9. Take another breath.
10. Now, see a second layer to this whole passage. View the donkey as a symbol of the disciplines and practices you use to get closer to God. (Disciplines and practices can be formal, like this exercise. Or informal, like the act of loving the people around you.) See the city of Jerusalem as a symbol of your heart: this is also a place Jesus makes a triumphant entry into. All those laying down their cloaks and palm fronds, and cheering are the people who have had a role in shaping who you are and where you are today. Re-envision this, either in your imagaination or by re-reading this account. But replace the faces of the crowd with the people who have loved and supported you; see that donkey as all the things you do to get closer to God; see the city of Jerusalem as a stand-in for you. Replay this scene in your imagination, with the senses fully engaged. Or re-read one of the accounts.
11. After Jesus’ entry into the city, spend some time in quiet communion.
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