Those were the days. Off to church as a family, in my mother's car, bickering as children do. But getting the palms when we arrived, one each, and trying to make little crosses out of them. The priest walking round the church, shaking water at us and then the long gospel story, the first telling of the passion and death in this Holy Week.
Then the other services- Thursday, when all the priests would gather in one place for the mass of chrism, the evening mass, where the church was stripped bare, tabernacle emptied for all to see. He is not here, He is taken, captured.
"He is no longer yours."
Then Friday, again a long story, with the solemn condemnation of the Lord and his death retold.
"Surely you were one of them?" The maid's accusation denied.
"I am not one of them, I never knew him."
And Saturday- sleeping in the afternoon so we didn't sleep in the night, at the vigil, holding and lighting candles to celebrate "Christ our Light"
"Deo Gratis"- thanks be to God.
I loved it, always. It lived the story in the ceremonies, vitalised me, energised me, made me live it myself. I was there at the cross, at the empty tomb, I saw and breathed the air in, I believed.
It has taken a long time for me to be able to think that, type it, without a sense of utter sorrow at what I have lost. It is still there, but the utterness is not, it is a background flavour, a hint, a taste of what was once. Now I can lie in bed and listen to the excellent monologue on the radio this morning- the story of Esther, the woman caught in adultery, told in the first person, and gain new perspectives on those stories that still carry with them important messages for all humanity.
"Neither do I condemn you"
He didn't condemn. He didn't blame. He didn't judge.
He didn't even graciously forgive, patronise, use those passive aggressive techniques that point so well the faults of others.
He just acknowledged her as human, alive
Condemnation, blaming, judging, doesn't help in healing, moving on.
It just hinders.
"Go and sin no more."
But what was her sin? Was it the adultery?
We will never know, but such an impossible thing to ask, given the huge numbers of sins he and his church set up! But from a human perspective, he had already set her free, by destroying the hypocrisy of moral judgement from a high ground of worthiness and righteousness. He set her free to value herself, to care for herself, to think of herself as a woman, as human . Perhaps that was her "sin" that she didn't love and care for herself. Her lack of self love it restrained her from doing the same for others, it allowed her to be used, it snared her where she was, a prisoner of circumstances.
So, as hubbie gets ready for church, and I sip coffee and check emails and think things a million miles away from those other Palm Sundays, at least I know one thing. My link to the past is not to be forgotten, but to be nurtured and encouraged, so that the good I have found does not get left behind to wither as I journey on in the dance and exploration that is now my life.
So, go gently this Palm Sunday, condemn no one for faults that we all possess, and love yourself and others, for that is a key that I have found can help
To suffer less
Love more...others, but firstly, importantly, vitally- love yourself. As you are.
Then that can set you free.