Spirituality for Today – April 2015 – Volume 19, Issue 9

Palm Crosses

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A photo of a palm leaf

Even before the Processional Rite for Palm (Passion) Sunday is complete, I notice them already. A number of parishioners have made crosses out of the strands of palm distributed before Mass. As if by some artistic slight-of-hand, a palm cross appears in all of its beauty. If you gave all of Holy Week to me, I could not manufacture such a wondrous creation as a palm cross. I even am amazed by the large commercial version that you see. Maybe it is admiration for a feat that I can't do, but there is something captivating about them.

Aristotle said, "The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance, but their inward significance." Interestingly, there is a danger to Holy Week. On a purely spiritual level, the danger is to be swallowed up by the intensity of the dramatic events in the life of Christ and thus to become so distracted that we fail to focus on the personal significance of these events. Throughout the forty days of Lent, a person has a parallel resource in all of the external liturgical offerings of a parish and in the opportunity to grow into a better follower of Christ by our participation in these prayerful happenings. The external liturgies are meant to transform the inner spiritual life of a person.

What do we need to do as a permanent and defining transformation of self as a disciple of Christ? The feel of Lent is linked to the action of transformation within a person's character. From the beginnings of the Church, non-believers were stunned by the way Christians loved one another. People were startled by the hope and devotion of Christians evident even in the face of martyrdom. Christian living does not provide a shield of invulnerability from the natural and man-made troubles in life, but it gives the courage to face them. During his lifetime, Jesus walked the road of life that all people walked and bore the weightiness of that journey. Beyond the joys and sorrows, Jesus lifted the reality of life to a transcendence that would fulfill the longings of the soul. He taught the Truth that made the highest virtues and moral dictates a light on the path of life and a source of hope for the world of today and of tomorrow. Believers occupy every corner of the globe and they face their own societal challenges in bringing to their world the Truth that is Christ.

Do you know persons who have told you that they have given up watching, listening, or reading the news items of the day? They have been brought to their knees by a sensory overload of human evils. Although we lay claim to the Christian faith, we might have felt that decency and peace are pursued in vain. This sense of futility needs to be recognized, but must be persistently rejected in the face of Christian faith, hope, and love. Someone once said, "Mankind all are marked equal at birth; virtue alone the difference makes on earth." The seeds of virtue buried in the rich, moist soil of the human soul are indeed the "difference makers" in human existence. Imagine each human being concerned wholeheartedly about living a virtuous life. Before passing it off as a utopian dream, imagine just one person striving to live a life of virtue. Imagine you! Remember, you are not alone. There is a huge mass of humanity striving sincerely to grow in holiness throughout this Lent and that mass will bring the hope of Easter into the mixed bag of human existence.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "The highest art is always the most religious, and the greatest artist is always a devout person." Yes, the greatest art emerges from the soul and speaks to a person of the artistic hand of the Holy Spirit. In and through faith, we are to make of our existence a work of art. We are to use the great and small brush strokes of the impression of God's grace on our character to leave a portrait of faith and virtue made visible. Perhaps, you, as I, cannot make crosses out of palms. We can, however, make a witness to the Risen Christ out of our lives.