Monday, April 18, 2011

Carrying our palms into Holy Week

Photo by Bonny Bronson
Each of our Palm Sunday worship services yesterday had its own character and tone, and I was privileged to be at all three.

At 8 am, the chapel was full, and our liturgy was on the contemplative side. There is much to contemplate in this Holiest of weeks.

Our children in their procession
Photo by Bonny Bronson
At 10 am, we began on the steps outside. The choir sang its introit, we blessed the palms and then followed the choir inside singing "Glory, laud and honor."

We waived our palms, and heard again the story of Jesus entering the city on a donkey and the Last Supper. Our children marched with us, and then came back in after the sermon in their own procession with palms.

Our 5:30 pm service was different still. We started across the street at the Rotunda of the University of Virginia. We stood by the statue of Thomas Jefferson and heard the story of the Exodus, and then we marched to our meditation garden at St. Paul's where our palms were blessed.

Rod Sinclair
Photo by Bonny Bronson
Inside the church, we laid our palms on the floor. Then the Rev. Nicholas Forti reminded us in his homily that our procession of palms marked the beginning of the Jewish Passover and our own exodus from the bondage of sin.

Photo by Wayne Nolen
The day was marked by many colors: the green of the palms, the red and white of the clergy vestments, and the blue of the gorgeous sky on a beautiful spring day.

The day contained much symbolism about a swirl of events and a death long ago. But it was also about the here and now. In mid-afternoon, I drove out to a cemetery near Monticello to preside at a graveside service for a 90-year-old woman who had died a few days ago. She had lived in Atlanta for many years, but her family brought her back to Charlottesville for burial where she had gone to the University. It was day of celebrating a good life, but also a day of good-byes and letting go for this one family.

Charlie Gleason, left, Bruce Carveth, right
Photo by Bonny Bronson

We enter Holy Week with so many layers of emotion and meaning: hope and despair, faith and doubt, courage and tragedy -- and ultimately we come again the meaning of the Empty Tomb.

Today at noon we will have prayers of peace, and we will read the names of all the soldiers, sailors and Marines who have died in the last year in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, followed by a Holy Eucharist. Please join us in body or prayer as you can.

We are on the path of the Cross but not there yet. May you have many blessings in this holiest of weeks.
Our wonderful choir,
Photo by Wayne Nolan
Standing on the steps, blessing the palms
Photo by Bonny Bronson

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