Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

We got up this morning and dressed just a little bit nicer than normal.  Hurried to church with a bit more pep in our tired steps than usual.  Holy Week is in the air now.  Christ is making His entrance.  The atmosphere is electric with anticipation.

The palms from yesterday's assembling awaited us.  Kids and adults alike shook their branches and the attached bells throughout the entire service.  Yes, that's ninety minutes of tinkling and clamoring...depending on the size of the bell.  Some brought their own bells from home, and it was a festive mix of tones from shrill to deep.  The bells I strung together for the learning box sounded like sleigh bells when I shook them.  For a moment, I had Christmas carols running through my head.  Bing Crosby is a persistent fella...hard to get rid of him!

Orthodoxy is all about moving your body.  God is the god of our bodies as well as our mouths.  Crossing ourselves, kissing icons, prostrating, and even shaking a bell until our arms ache help us pay better attention to the service and makes every movement more meaningful.  We pray with every part of us, and this day was no different.

Usually, we process around the outside of the church at the end of the service, but alas, this day of jubilation didn't carry over to the weather.  It was cold and rainy.  No one wanted to go outside, so we stayed in and Father led the children through an extra procession in the center of the church.  We all shook our palms with a little extra bit of "umph" to make up for not going outside.

The learning boxes have become a bit of a sensation at church.  People are starting to look for the next one.  This idea is turning out to be just as useful for the adults as it is for the kids.  I know that making the boxes has taken my Holy Week experience to another level already.  It keeps me from going through the motions.  I'm listening for the symbols in the readings just as much as Hilary, and I get a little lift of excitement every time I hear one like she does.

Yesterday's learning box for Lazarus Saturday looked like this:
Martha and Mary are there.  Jared misunderstood my plans for Lazarus, so he drew grave clothes on one of the figures.  My plans had been to wrap a figure in linen strips.  He liked his, and I liked mine, so we compromised by putting both versions of Lazarus in the box!  This drove Hilary crazy.  She insisted that there could not possibly be two Lazarus figures.  Oh, of the many times in a day that I do not do exactly as Hilary desires!  The box also has a stone for Lazarus' tomb, and a quote from the Gospel reading of the story where Jesus reassures Martha that, "I am the Resurrection and the Life."  Lastly, the box has a wooden cube with the number "4" written in different styles and languages (English, Spanish, Greek, Russian, and Arabic) to symbolize Lazarus, the four-days dead.  We stumbled across these wooden blocks, and I'm going to use them often in the boxes for the things that are difficult to find an actual 3-D symbol to represent.

Palm Sunday's box looked like this:
It included:
     *  a donkey
     *  bells
     *  a palm cross
     *  the Troparion of the day
     *  two figures waving palms (note how those tiny crosses that Jared wove on Lazarus Saturday came in handy...the male figure has his very own palm cross made to scale!)
      *  a friend from church is intrigued by the boxes, so she gave me a special gift of a rock from the Mount of Olives.  She suggested including it on this day to remind us that if we do not praise God, even the rocks will cry out.

My Protestant upbringing had a giant gap in Holy Week.  Well...there was no Holy Week.  We had two celebrations: Palm Sunday and Easter.  No services in between.  Now, having the chance to go to church every day (God willing, multiple times a day) during this week really cements the events for me.  I'm so grateful for the lessons of Holy Week.  There's betrayal and death and tears this week.  There's agony and sacrifice and denial.  It's not just two parties!  Daily reminders of that this week are extremely helpful.

We've had our first celebration.  We're rejuvenated and anxious to continue our journey.  In just a few short days, the voices will be crying, "Crucify him!", but today, it's nice to feel just the joy of:

Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord! 

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