April 17, 2011

Hosanna to the Son of David

Holy Week begins. For me, as a parish liturgist, this is my busiest week, so much so that I often don't have the time to sit and meditate on what it is we are celebrating. I do know how important it is however, to find the time to focus on what our Lord Jesus has done for us and to contemplate the Paschal Mystery that this week celebrates.

One of the ways I meditate on the events in our Lord's life is through art. Perhaps that comes from majoring in art in college. I also know that art speaks to the heart, often in ways that words cannot. Over the centuries, up until the nineteenth century, religious subjects were the most popular subjects in paintings and sculpture. The graphic arts also served a catechetical function since many people were illiterate and art told the stories of faith.

One of the most popular art forms, at least in the Eastern and Orthodox Christian tradition, are icons. They are among the most ancient Christian art forms. Icons are called "windows to eternity" or "theology in color." The icon is not simply a painting, but stands as a symbol, drawing the viewer in to experience the mystery depicted. An icon is not meant to be realistic and everything in the icon has meaning. Sit with an icon and let it draw you in.

As I meditate on the icon of our Lord's entry into Jerusalem I often wonder how it was that it all turned around. One moment "Hosanna," the next "crucify Him." Isn't it like that with us sometimes? One moment we are praising God, and the next we find ourselves giving into temptations that lead to sin. And wasn't it our sins that crucified Him? So, as we enter our churches this Palm Sunday morning, let us sing Hosanna, and let us praise the Son of David, our King and our Lord. As we do, let us also call to mind our sins, and leave our celebration of the Eucharist ready to enter into enter into the mystery of Christ's Passion.  

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