Holy Week Contemplation #2
Palm Sunday—A Ecstasy of Spring
(Number 2 of a series of daily posts for Holy Week. Take your time and let the words come alive in you.)
Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing:
The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness: the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning,
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning.
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice, and worthy the winning.
Every spring, nature re-enacts this first celebration of existence with the exuberance of spring, as life unfurls in dizzying colors and fragrances and shapes.
Each year I return at this season to this sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins, as my senses are re-enlivened and I am drawn out of my winter introspection into the festival of nature. With the eyes of the poet, I see the grasses, the thrushes, the blooming trees and the blue of the sky. I hear the birds above and the lambs on our farm. With the heart of a eurythmist, I savor the dance of sound, the repeating consonants and the rhyming vowels so powerfully woven in the alliteration of sounds.
In this poem, I can imagine the first day of Creation. God (the unlimited source of all) could no longer contain the abundance of love, and overflowed with an outpouring of living ideas and thoughts, some as big as universes and some as intimate as molecules. God created us, too, on this first day, as creatures equipped to receive all this beauty, all this world, all this love.
This is the glory of Palm Sunday, a celebration of all that we have been given for our joy and well-being. Palm Sunday celebrates Christ as the Son of God, the Sun God, the spirit of the Sun who walked on earth as a human being. Songs of praise surrounded Him as he rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey those many years ago.
As we considered yesterday, every birth inevitably contains the coffin of a future death. The poet writes that the Garden of Eden will soon come to an end, but we are urged to “have, get, before it cloy, before it cloud, Christ, Lord, and sour with sinning.”
Where will we find the forces of resurrection?
In the journey from Palm Sunday through Holy Week to Easter, Christ, the child of the Maid, did not turn away from death. He too walked into the world of the senses. The Lord of Life continued on his sober, conscious journey, so that He could plant the seed of spirit-future into the center of the earth, into the hearts of human beings. In the days of the week to come, He will enter ever more fully into kingdom of death, until He can completely experience the human condition of separation from source. He will feel on the cross entirely forsaken by his Creator.
Palm Sunday is the last Sunday of the “old mysteries.” We must acknowledge that only if we can re-discover the living forces of creation that lie behind the world of the senses can we unite with the forces of life and rebirth.
And on Easter Sunday, through connecting with the very source of life, Christ will illumine for us the path of resurrection.
For, in the words of the poet, this earth is indeed “worthy of winning.”