When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel."
As we enter into the heart of this Lenten season, Holy Week, we will encounter this passage from the Gospel of John more than once. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Calvary, to His tomb, and ultimately to His Resurrection. It marks the beginning of a week filled with the praise of a king. Praise in which we are invited to participate.
But what song of praise and adoration will we choose to sing? Will we sing with those in the Gospel of John celebrating the coming of Jesus to Jerusalem, naming him king? Will we hail Him at the cross a few days later with those mocking Jesus’ kingship? Will we cry out with the Heavenly hosts the song for the One victorious over death?
If we’re honest, our answer has to be “all three.”
The words of praise we find showered upon Jesus in the Gospels this week provide for us a snapshot of the “praise” that issues forth from our own hearts. At times we find ourselves offering the lip service of praise, worshipping with our words, proclaiming Christ Lord of our lives, then quietly continuing to grasp for the illusion of control in all the real situations and circumstances in which we find ourselves, as if Jesus’ kingship, power, and love is a nice idea, but not a reality that can actually be trusted. In effect, we crown Jesus with an earthly crown of praise that is fleeting.
At our worst, we go even further not only offering the lip service of praise, but mocking and wounding Christ with our own hypocrisy, sin, and idolatry. Whether intended or not, we cry out with the masses, “Crucify him,” and we crown Jesus with thorns, with a crown of death.
But the praise that we desire to offer and for which we are made is the praise of Heaven. Every heart and all creation yearn to cry out in praise of a true king, a true God. This deep yearning, in fact, is often inadvertently the source of our idolatry. Mankind is made to worship and to praise. It’s in our design, but sometimes we’re unaware of this. That lack of awareness combined with our concupiscence causes our praise to become misdirected at times, and we miss the mark for which we’re actually aiming in the depths of our hearts. Instead of being offered to the only one who is worthy of it, our praise and our worship are given to other people, relationships, jobs, athletics, endeavors, ideas of success and fulfillment, and even ourselves.
Where are we spending our time - the physical spaces and those of the interior life? Where are we pouring out the best of ourselves? Whose direction are we following in our daily life? Whose words are we hanging on? Perhaps these questions are a good starting place to see more clearly those place and ways in which we’ve given the crown of our adoration to someone or something other than the One worthy of it.
Whether or not we’re aware of it, whether or not we can hear it, the song of Heaven and earth is the song of praise of the One true king who took upon himself the sin of the world and rose victorious over death. As we face the realities of our own sin and our inevitable fate for an earthly death, everything in us wants to cry out for life. Everything in us wants to cry out for mercy. Everything in us wants to cry out to the One who saves us. Perhaps we can feel that more than ever as we near the end of Lent.
Here’s the Good News: this is in fact our call. This is what Christ accomplishes in his Passion, death, and Resurrection. He invites us to participate in His new life, eternal life. And He invites us to participate in the never-ending song of praise that rings out all around us in Heaven and on earth: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty...Worthy is the Lamb who sits upon the throne...Hosanna in the highest.”
We wrote “Hosanna” from that place of desire we have to give true praise to God. Even while we know there still exists in our own lives those moments of misdirected praise, of hypocrisy, of sin, doubt, and outright rejection of Christ, we yearn from the deepest place to cry out with Heaven and earth, “Hosanna in the highest.” We long to recognize more fully that He truly is the king of all creation, and, in that place where our own free will allows us the choice, to crown Him king of our lives. We hope this song gives you a medium to move past the praise of earth and enter into the praise of Heaven. Let our song of true praise ring out at every moment of this Holy Week, at every moment as we remember Christ’ Passion, death, and Resurrection, at every moment as we go forth from it to, “Proclaim His death and profess His Resurrection.”
- The VIGIL Project Team