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I remember as a young child that we would go to church on Sunday, and specifically on Palm Sunday there would be a longer mass. We would hear the story of Christ coming back from the desert after His forty days and forty nights of fasting.
News of His return had spread throughout the land, as had the stories of the healing work, miracles and teaching He had been doing for the previous three years.
When He returned to Jerusalem, as He entered the gates He was given a mule to ride upon, and the crowds of people brought out palm fronds and laid them down in front of His path, honoring Him and His return.
Christ knew what was coming. He had spent a great deal of time preparing himself for what was to come. He knew this was His destiny. He knew that this is what He had come to Earth for, and the purpose of His time in the desert was to purify His consciousness, renew His strength and faith, and prepare Himself for the torture and death of His body.
As a young child, I didn't know the meaning or the implication of these things. All I knew is that winter was starting to go away, and that spring was coming. We were getting ready for Easter, and I was having new clothes to wear to church, including a straw hat with flowers on it. I had patent leather Mary-janes, which needed to be polished up with vaseline the night before church. (Someone please tell me you had to do that too! 😁)
At the end of Palm Sunday mass, each family could receive a few strands of a palm frond at the back of the church on our way out. These palms had been blessed, and were now holy, to be treated with reverence.
When we got home, my mother would teach us how to weave them into small bundles, which were then laid by our statues of Mary, or inserted into one of the many crucifixes we had around the house. This was in recognition of Holy Week which had begun and would end at Easter. Each one of us had our own crucifix in our bedrooms.
I wonder now how old these cultural practices are, and if my mother had simply been passing down what she had learned and received as a child from her mother as well.
This period - both in nature and in spirituality - is a time of death and rebirth. Whether you are Catholic or not, religious or not, spiritual or not, you can see it all around us in the natural world as the decay of winter becomes revealed to us underneath the melting snow. In the northern hemisphere around the world, clouds are heavy and gray, dropping rains and storms throughout the land. We are pushed inside, and to look at our own heavy clouds within.
Every spiritual tradition worldwide will convey to us its own stories of dark periods where there is no growth, no seeds, no light, and no inspiration. We are in a state of 'doing without' because we are purging our pasts. Humanity is asked to look at what needs to go, what no longer works to allow it to be revealed so that it can be released.
All fields must lie fallow if they are to have the strength and energy to receive new seeds and grow plentiful crops once again.
So too it is with ourselves. We must divest ourselves of the vestiges of our past, the parts that no longer serve us, in preparation for re-birth. For a new world to come. For spring to spring forward in our lives.
While Christ was in the desert, there is the symbolism of His having been met by the devil, who tempted Him to leave this insanity of isolation and fasting, give up his connection to God, and simply do as He pleased for Himself. The devil tried to prey on any weaknesses he might find in Christ. In exchange for his Soul, Satan promised Him the world.
What would you do?
What are you doing?
Is your Soul still with you? Are you following its guidance and dictates? Or have you abandoned it in favor of pursuing what the world would tell you you "should" do?
Since Lent started 40 days ago, we have been in a period of mourning our pasts and purifying ourselves as best as we can. If you decided to do this, you may have found a reconnection with your spirit, with your Soul right behind it, offering the love and guidance it always has to offer you.
During this time, the release of old memories which have included guilt and judgment may have been plaguing you in the night, coming forward in dreams, visions, and cringe-worthy remembrances of situations and circumstances you have found yourself in in the past.
During this coming Holy Week, we want to remember what we are doing this for. We want to pay attention to all that our Souls are guiding us to release. All those vestiges of the past have lost their power now, only shadows of memories remain, and we no longer need to see them as real.
Let us know, deep within ourselves that rebirth and renewal are part of a continual cycle that will always be with us.
Let's use this time to finally embrace the knowledge of what we know is leaving us, and set our sites on all that will be new to come.