Sunday, March 16, 2008

Good Shepherd, think of me (Palm Sunday)

This is one of my favorite hymns, written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) The lyrics were translated from his writings by Henry Williams Baker in 1861.

The image of angels adoring the Lord Jesus as He hung on the cross is a very powerful one, I think.

O Sacred Head, Surrounded

O Sacred Head, surrounded
by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding Head, so wounded,
reviled and put to scorn!
Our sins have marred the glory
of Thy most Holy Face,
yet angel hosts adore Thee
and tremble as they gaze

I see Thy strength and vigor
all fading in the strife,
and death with cruel rigor,
bereaving Thee of life;
O agony and dying!
O love to sinners free!
Jesus, all grace supplying,
O turn Thy face on me.

In this Thy bitter passion,
Good Shepherd, think of me
with Thy most sweet compassion,
unworthy though I be:
beneath Thy cross abiding
for ever would I rest,
in Thy dear love confiding,
and with Thy presence blest.

But death too is my ending;
In that dread hour of need,
My friendless cause befriending,
Lord, to my rescue speed:
Thyself, O Jesus, trace me,
Right passage to the grave,
And from Thy cross embrace me,
With arms outstretched to save.

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week and marks the first time that we read the story of Christ's Passion from the gospel of St. Matthew. It's always surprisingly difficult to be part of the congregation at this Mass, reading the part of the Crowd. We have very few lines, but the ones we have make me tremble just like the angels: "We choose Barabbas!", "Crucify him!" and -- worst of all -- "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

During Holy Week, we almost spend more time in church than we do at home. We attend weekday Mass every day during Holy Week if possible. On Good Friday, which is a day of fasting and abstinence, we go to church at noon and stay through an entire series of events: Stations of the Cross, the rosary, communion service and then through the solemn time of gathering in the narthex where the Blessed Sacrament has been placed on a makeshift altar, surrounded by spring flowers. There we spend at least an hour in Adoration, heeding His request to His disciples to stay with Him, be with Him during His hour of need. On that night, we are His disciples, waiting with Him in the garden called Gethsemane.

Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament won't be present again in the church until the consecration at the Easter Vigil Mass.


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Kbg said...

It always does seem like we spend more time at church than at home during Holy Week...Matt always loves to serve as much of it as possible.

Aren't we lucky that the church is literally in our backyard???? Always seems like it IS home as my kitchen and family room windows look out onto it. A nice view...I really love it being so.