Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday: The release into ecstasy

Christians around the world commemorate this day as Palm Sunday, in memory of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Holding up palm leaves and throwing flowers in the air, there are many Christian traditions, who try to relive that moment of faith (history) when the people greeted Jesus on the donkey colt, by collectively shouting ‘Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ Truly a powerful moment. The son of a carpenter, a band of ruffians as followers, a donkey colt as the official carrier, and the crowd of people celebrating a big event. It would have been one of the most un-choreographed moments of a great event. And yet it was a notable and therefore a successful event.

But I wish to look at it from a totally new perspective. I want to travel hundreds of years to the present. To the churches that are spread all over India, and who have the tradition and practice of holding palm leaves and throwing flowers in the air as a reminiscence of the great entry.

I remember the Palm Sunday services in my church, which belongs to the Orthodox church tradition. Both as a deacon (priest assistant) and as a priest I noticed the interesting release of the flowers by the children assembled in church. There were these designated times when everyone was asked to throw the flowers (preferably upwards). From throwing flowers upwards, they started throwing against each other and then towards the priest. The battle cries and the missile like flowers would bring about a hostile environment in which the priest had to read the prayer.

But putting apart the small inconveniences, we have to look at the children who get into the act of the release of their frustrations in church. Even though there are supposed to be other avenues for this, that it does not work becomes clear. So, Palm Sunday helps the children to enter into passion week, putting out all frustrations and anger. Truly, a release into ecstasy, which is one of the aims of religion. So even though the church has a fixed route, the children select their own routes. The solemn service then also becomes fun and adrenalin releasing. Maybe when Jesus entered Jerusalem, this was what the people felt. A release from their usual afflictions and the rules and regulations of the authorities!

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