Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
PALM SUNDAY, 1937.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Two processions met on that first Palm Sunday. There was the procession of disciples attending upon Our Lord as he entered Jerusalem. The second was the procession that came out from Jerusalem to meet Our Lord.
Probably this procession consisted mostly of strangers who had come up to Jerusalem for the Feast and had already visited the Temple. Many of them were faithful to Our Lord. With them were hostile Pharisees. So it was a mixed multitude, but for the most part friendly and aroused to enthusiasm for a brief time.
They carried with them palm branches. The disciples cut down branches from the trees on the way, and strewed them before Our Lord, making a carpet over which He might ride in simple state. And as they marched they caught up a fragment of a psalm and cried, "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest."
Hosanna, save us now. This was their cry. It was as sincere as crowd sincerity can be. The enthusiasm was as stable as crowd enthusiasm can be. But no one, not even the disciples, understood the full meaning of the cry. The salvation which was to come was far beyond their present comprehension. Nor did they forsee the method or the cost. The ignorance and the enthusiasm is what constitutes the pathos of that procession. The divine foreknowledge, the infinite love and the unconquerable meekness of Our Lord gave it grandeur, a grandeur which has captivated the imagination of mankind to this day.
The Palm Sunday solemnities still cast a spell and attract crowds to churches, eager to see this strange procession; beautiful as an army with banners, stern as regiments marching into certain death, shouting the time-honored battle cry "Hosanna." You may see it all over the world this morning, this third procession. But with a difference. We live after the triumphant event of the Passion. We have seen the victory of the Cross. We know the whole story.
The week which begins today is a Holy Week for us, because the end of it will bring the gift of holiness and everlasting life. We know that the Cross is the key which unlocks the doors which open into both. The door through which the sinner passes to become penitent. The door through which the penitent passes to become forgiven. The door through which the forgiven passes to freedom to walk in newness of life, a new person, with a new name.
Palm Sunday is a commemoration of Our Lord's victory over the world wherever and whenever it is organized apart from God. "Be of good cheer," said the Lord of this day. "I have overcome the world." Not "I will," but "I have." Many, too many times, the world has made the attempt to live what it likes to call ‘its own life', organized apart from God. As many times it has failed, As many times the only Person who loved it enough to die for it has saved it. He won his victory centuries ago. He will maintain it till the world ends.
"In the world ye shall have tribulation," Our Lord said. We need waste no time dreaming of a perfect world, nor in despairing over an imperfect one. But what we must always remember is that Our Lord remains, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Come what may in our time or in times to follow, in the long run the victory remains with Him.
We who participate in the solemnities of Palm Sunday in this year of grace have another and greater advantage not possible for the multitude in that first Palm Sunday. For we have been permitted to see and to live in the promised Church, built upon the Rock which is Christ. We have seen with our own eyes that never once have the gates of hell prevailed against the Church. So we sing our Hosannas today. And every Hosanna is a ringing note of hope.
Affectionately in Our Lord,