Sunday, April 13, 2014

Love is not a Victory March

"Crown of Thorns"
-in my meditation garden-

On the Christian calendar, today is "Palm Sunday" - the first day of "Holy Week," leading up to the Easter celebration next Sunday. 

It occurs to me that, for the most part, people who are not Christians- people of other religions, no religion, people who are non-believers, will likely take little or no notice of the significance of this day and this week. 

In fact, many Christians will hardly pay much attention.  Palm Sunday comes along, you go to church, get a palm, maybe walk in a procession- then it's  back to the rest of ordinary life in the real world, until Easter comes along and it's time for bunnies and brunch. 

I actually think that this Holy Week time can be very powerful and maybe even a life-changng time of the year not just for Christians, but for every human being. 

If you take a step away from focusing on the events that actually (historically) happened on this day in Jerusalem  2000 years ago, if you step away from arguments about whether or not you "believe"  in Jesus or believe in "God," and just look at the poetry of the story, it  turns into a story about the human condition - a tale told to Christians and Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, spiritual but not religious folks, atheists and agnostics. 

The story about the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week is a timeless tale about what "genuine love" is really all about in our human condition.  It is a story about the "cost" of  justice. It is a story about the path to enlightenment- the death of the old ego-self and the birth of the new enlightened-self.

In the Christian gospels we hear about Jesus entering Jerusalem a few days before he would be crucified. On the surface it all looks so triumphant and so victorious. He is the focus of all attention.  He seems to have won the day as he is greeted by the adulation and praise of those placing palms before  his feet and waving love branches as they sing out "Hosanna" and "Hallelujah." 

But beneath the surface there is a different story being told. This is a story about being broken in order to be made whole. Before Jesus can come out on the other side and reach  the "light" of Easter, his old self must be broken and must die. 

When Jesus enters Jerusalem to the songs of triumph, he is the champion for the cause of justice and compassion - no one an outcast, respect the dignity of every human being. But the message here is that there is a cost to achieve justice.  The cause of justice goes against the grain of the dominant culture and compassion doesn't just "happen;" and soon the triumphant cries of Hosanna and Hallelujah drip with the hateful sounds of "crucify him."  

Leonard Cohen's hauntingly beautiful ballad, "Hallelujah" is my very favorite "love song" of all time. It is my favorite because it is so true and so honest, a bitterly tender poem about what genuine love is all about in our broken and exalted human condition.

Love in not a victory march.
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

We think of love as a warm and tender feeling. But I think that "love" goes way beyond having nice feelings. Love is an action performed on behalf of another's welfare. A self-important narcissistic ego can never "love" because love demands the surrender of the ego. In fact, genuine love demands the death of the ego (the old self) poured out in union with the flow of all that is - poured out into the  "ONE." 

Love is never easy. You have to be broken to "love." You have to die to the false security of the old self in order to rise to the freedom and the beauty of the true self. Compassion demands sacrifice. Building a world of justice is never cheap and easy.  This is the lesson of Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

On this Palm Sunday morning, I sit in my garden and meditate on the "crown of thorns" cactus I have planted here. It is so stunningly beautiful with its blood-red flowers so gloriously blossoming out of long, spiky, painful thorns; palm trees wave in the distance singing a Holy Week song to me- a tale told for every human being. 

Love is not a victory march.
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!


  1. Beautifully put. Thank you.

    I too pondered the triumphant entry and following events of Palm Sunday differently this year. During the service and shortly there afterward I found myself in deep thought about an element of the human condition composing much of "ego/narcissistic self" that I never considered. But now I believe is integral to the breaking, dying and rebirthing of the self and has always been I just did not decouple it from the whole picture so as to appreciate it for what it is until now.

    I began thinking upon the "I am/s" of the human condition that can shape our identity, actions, inactions and our decisions, whether this manifests consciously or unconsciously. The " I am shameful, I am not good enough, I am a reject, I am incapable, I have done something and am unforgiveable." In my experience I have found that no matter how successful or educated people are out in the world, they to have these thoughts and beliefs about themselves. These thought become inculcated in their spirit and thus their "true" identity and whom they feel they are in their spirit (spiritual identity). The spirit of inadequacy, rejection, degradation, self-loathing and so on and so forth. "The real me" that if people knew about they would see I am really .......(fill in the blank anyway you like).

    Perhaps as Christ was broken and resurrected the breaking and death of these "I am/s" of the human condition creates the space and allows for the rebirth of our new identity as lovers. We become the Lovers of our brothers and sisters and who in our love for them will experience great depths of compassion existing simultaneously and in proportion to the depth of pain they are experiencing. Lovers so strengthened by compassion begat by pain that we us to take loving action in the world.

  2. Thanks for the very insightful and wise insight.