01 April 2012

Palm Sunday

Weather: If the sun shines clear today, there will be a great store of fair weather and abundance of food.

All glory, laud and honor
To Thee, Redeemer, King
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David's royal Son,
Who in the Lord's Name comest,
The King and Blessed One.

Today we commemorate the triumphant entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem, when the people acclaimed him, waving palm branches and strewing flowers in his path.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter or Zion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: 
Behold, thy king will come to thee, the just and saviour. (Zechariah 9:9)

It is traditional for parishioners to receive consecrated palm fronds today, which are carried in procession into the church, and then taken home. 

Our ancestors entered in to the spirit of the day, by lining the streets as a wooden form representing Jesus sitting on a donkey was drawn in procession.  Before this effigy, they threw down their palm branches, retrieving them afterwards, as they believed the ridden-over fronds to be charms against storms and lighting.

Of course, sour ol’ Naogeorgus couldn’t let such a celebration pass without sticking his curmudgeonly oar in.  First in his crosshairs are the pageants which taught the people their Bible stories.  Merciful Heavens!  It’s not a real ass nor the real Jesus!  It's like a play!  Scandalous!
Here comes that worthy day wherein our Savior Christ is thought
To come unto Jerusalem on ass's shoulders brought:
When as again these Papists fond their foolish pageants have
With pomp and great solemnity, and countenance wondrous grave.
A wooden Ass they have, and Image great that on him rides,
But underneath the Ass’s feet a table broad there slides,
Being borne on wheels, which ready dressed, and all things meet therefore,
The Ass is brought abroad and set before the church’s door.

Next are those stupid, simple peasants, so foolishly taking part in the pageant (and for Heaven’s sake, don’t let anyone who can’t sing open their mouths!  Despite the Psalmist, we want no joyful noises here!)
The people all do come, and boughs of trees and Palms they bear,
Which thing against the tempest great the Parson conjures there,
And straightway down before the Ass, upon his face he lies,
Whom there another Priest doth strike with rod of largest size;
He rising up, two lubbers great upon their faces fall,
In strange attire, and loathsomely, with filthy tune, they bawl:
Who, when again they risen are, with stretching out their hand,
They point unto the wooden knight, and singing as they stand,
Declare that that is he that came into the world to save,
And to redeem such as in him their hope assured have:
And even the same that long ago, while in the street he rode,
The people met and Olive boughs so thick before him strewed.

Oh, those Papists!  Not content with bearing their idol through the streets, they bring it into the church!
This being sung, the people cast the branches as they pass,
Some part upon the Image, and some part upon the Ass:
Before whose feet a wondrous heap of boughs and branches lie:
This done, into the Church he straight is drawn full solemnly:
The shaven Priests before them march, the people follow fast,
Still striving who shall gather first the boughs that down are cast:
For falsely they believe that these have force and virtue great
Against the rage of winter storms and thunders flashing heat.
In some place wealthy citizens, and men of sober cheer,
For no small sum do hire this Ass with them about to bear,
And mannerly they use the same, not suffering any by
To touch this Ass, nor to presume into his presence nigh.

And here is the clincher.  Those boys, who never miss an opportunity to beg for treats at the doors of honest citizens, borrow the figures (after bribing the sexton) and again wander through the streets, serenading those whom they hope will be generous.  What is this world coming to?  Why are those children not engaged in some useful activity, instead of asking alms of those who worked hard to earn their money?
When as the priests and people all have ended this their sport,
The boys do after dinner come, and to the Church resort:
The Sexton pleased with price, and looking well no harm be done:
They take the Ass, and through the streets and crooked lanes they roam,
Whereas they common verses sing, according to the guise,
The people giving money, bread, and eggs of largest size.
Of this their gains they are compelled the master half to give,
Lest he alone without his portion of the Ass should live.

In northern countries where palms are not numerous or common, branches of other trees - willow, boxwood, yew, and olive - were used instead.  Ol’ Naogeorgus inveighed against this as well:
Besides they candles up do light, of virtue like in all,
And willow branches hallow, that they ‘palms’ do use to call.
This done, they verily believe the tempest nor the storm
Can neither hurt themselves, nor yet their cattle, nor their corn.

An old Welsh tradition is to walk the boundaries of your property today.  Doing so will keep thieves away. [However, let us not place temptation in the path of our fellow man. Continue to use stout locks and other paraphernalia which discourages law-breaking].

This is also called Fig Sunday, from the practice of eating figs and fig puddings today. [A fig pudding, for those who wish to make one, is like a plum pudding with the addition of chopped dried figs.]
John M. Neale, the translator of the above hymn into English, also noted another verse, which he says was sung until the 17th century.
Be Thou, O Lord, the Rider,
And we the little ass,
That to God's holy city
Together we may pass.

 Certainly appropriate to me, for I have a tendency to asinine behavior on occasion.