Holy Week is always one of the busiest weeks in the life of a priest and yet, for me, it is one of the best and extraordinary times of the year for a priest. This Palm Sunday, was also “April Fools Day.” The day started for me at 7:15 a.m. when I left home for church. I will not return until 8:33 p.m. I attended both Masses, but celebrated at the latter, proceeded by a procession. Our Assisting Priest, Fr. Bernard Griffith, celebrated at the earlier Eucharist. The services (8:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) were well attended and the church was decorated beautifully with palms. Each service began with the Liturgy of the Palms which included the blessing and distribution of palm branches. The blend of the two gospels: the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and the Passion of our Lord, show the different reactions of the same crowd – from an enthusiastic crowd who cheered Jesus on his arrival into Jerusalem on a donkey to a mob who jeered him a few days later as he hung on the cross. As I remarked in my sermon:
“Palm Sunday reminds us that there are those who cheer us and speak well of us today and tomorrow they speak ill of us behind our backs. Palm Sunday reminds us that when people’s expectations are not met they can rise up against us regardless to how much good we may have done in the past. Palm Sunday reminds us that we can be a hero one minute and a broken, defeated person the next….Palm Sunday reminds us that life is like a roller coaster in that the high points of life inevitably seem to be followed by the struggles of life. But Palm Sunday also reminds us that after the cheering is over, and we feel broken and defeated, then come Easter, and God will resurrect us; He will make us new again once we trust and believe in Him.”
After Masses, I counseled a couple, and then it was off to the home of one of my parishioners for my first seder meal. My family attended as well. It was an opportunity to relive part of our Jewish heritage since it is the origin of Christianity. For me, it was a wonderful and enlightening experience as I was asked to lead the meal. In an intimate and warm setting, seventeen persons attended. The men and boys wore a “kippah” or “yarmulke” while the ladies wore a “kippot.” We participated in the various parts of the meal – The Lighting of the Festival Lights by the hostess, a Reading from the Old Testament: Exodus 12:1-36, in which my wife participated, the Symbols of the Service on the Seder Plate – matzos, roasted shankbone, roasted egg, moror or bitter-herbs, charoses (a mixture of nuts, apple, and cinnamon, finely chopped and mixed with wine), and salt water. This plate was placed in front of me as the leader of the meal and as we heard the meaning of each symbol, I pointed to them on the plate. Other aspects of the service included Kiddush, Urchatz (Washing of the Hands), Karpas (dipping of the green vegetable in salt water), Yachatz (breaking of the middle matzoh), Maggeed (the raising of the 3 matzos), The Four Questions which were asked by the children (represented by the 10 year-old grandson of the host and hostess, and my 8 year old son). They both did an incredible job. There was the chanting of the Hallel Psalms (Psalm 113 and 114), Rachatz (washing of hands before the meal), Motzee Matzoh (the eating of a piece of matzoh), Koraych (the breaking and distribution of the bottom matzoh, placing bitter herbs between two pieces of matzos and eat), and then came the fun part Shulchon Oraych otherwise known as time for dinner to be served. A sumpstous and delicious meal was truly enjoyed by all who attended. Following dinner, there was a Reading from the New Testament: Luke 22:14-23, Boraych (Grace after meals). The final part of the service was the Opening of the Front Door of the house for the spirit of Elijah the Prophet to enter the home, the Chanting of Psalm 116:12-19 and Psalm 181:1-4, the Earth’s Bounties, and the Closing Prayer.
One of the feature aspects of the seder meal is the four cups of wine that are drunk. By the way, the children drank grape juice. The first cup or glass of wine is drunk at the start of the Seder. The second cup is drunk right before the beginning of the meal itself. The third cup is drunk at the end of the Seder meal, and the fourth cup is drunk after completing the Psalms of praise. I would add that anyone attending a seder meal needs to be a lover of wine.
After a lovely, enjoyable, and blessed evening that included worship, fellowship, conversation, and laughter, we all journeyed to our homes having spend a glorious Palm Sunday.