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Holy Week is a kind of homecoming

Roman Catholic Arch Diocese of Boston/Flickr CC

Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP - published on 03/28/21

We are coming to a place we know. What can we rediscover here?

As our Lord approached the city, a great multitude came out to meet him. They waved palm branches and spread their cloaks before him. Cries rang forth from their hearts as they shouted from the depths of their souls, “Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

On Palm Sunday, we re-enact, we remember the Lord’s triumphant entry to Jerusalem. By our words and actions, the Lord gives us the grace to make present in the here-and-now the mercy poured out in days of old. 

The words of the liturgy pierce us. They are familiar and well-worn. Holy Week is a kind of homecoming, a returning to a place we know and love. This return, filled with all the joy of an arrival, is an opportunity to discover hidden meanings, new depths of Christ’s work in our lives.

One simple example: What is the cry “Hosanna”? We say ‘Hosanna’ at every Holy Mass. But what does it mean?

Supplication

Hosanna was prayed by the priests of Israel as part of the celebration of a Temple feast in Jerusalem. It was a supplication, a crying out. It was a plea for God to hear and answer Israel’s cries for deliverance. John the Evangelist writes in his Gospel, “Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy! O gates, lift high your heads; grow higher, ancient doors. Let him enter, the king of glory! Who is this king of glory? He, the Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory. Hosanna in the highest!” The words of the Gospel, quoted from Psalm 24, can be understood as describing the assembly moving to the holy city. As the people of God grew closer to the place of the Temple where they would invoke God, the gates loomed larger. 

Praise

Hosanna is a cry of praise. We shout HOSANNA to thank almighty God for the wonderful work he has done. God has remembered his covenant of old. He has been faithful to his promise to Israel; that he would send a savior from the house of David. And so we cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:10).

Blessing

To cry “Hosanna!” Means to grant adulation and honor to the name of the Lord. For Israel, God’s name is holy and by extension the words we use to bless are particular. Hosanna is a sanctifying cry, making holy in the name of the Lord the things blessed by our acclaim. Every Sunday as we sing the Sanctus (the Holy, Holy, Holy) we sing these words: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” It is a cry of welcome, and acclamation, for at every Mass, we welcome our King. May we cut green branches and spread our cloaks, making our hearts ready places, places fit to welcome Christ our King!

Let us join in

Present before our eyes is a deep mystery. The Lord invites us to participate in his work of redemption. Archbishop Fulton Sheen says,

He borrowed a boat from a fisherman from which to preach; He borrowed barley loaves and fishes from a boy to feed the multitude; He borrowed a grave from which he would rise; and now he borrowed an ass on which to enter Jerusalem.”

The Lord extends to us the chance to join in his saving work.

Whether the Lord looks to us this week for assistance—helping out our stressed parish priest, teaching our children about the saving mysteries of Easter, or taking palm branches to the sick or homebound—or whether he simply looks to meet us in the quiet of our prayers, he wants us to choose him. 

Choose Christ this week. Turn to him in supplication, praise his holy name and bless his work! Cry out again, Hosanna!




Read more:
Pope’s Palm Sunday homily (full text): ‘This liturgy leaves us amazed’

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Holy WeekSunday Readings
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