When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
- Luke 19:37-40; Liturgy of the Palms, Common Lectionary Year C
Stones crying out was the only thing that ever-made sense to me about Palm Sunday. Made sense in the way the ashes and desert wandering with Jesus made sense; the ritual of Lent speaking in the wordless languages of the senses, our bodies marked by the mystery of God’s creation and our createdness. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …
And while the artistry of the season’s liturgies can be stunning, piercing my amnesia and reawakening the sharp ache of my longing my longing my longing for a God whose longing for me is so unfathomable that I turn my face toward a million lesser things and sorrow silently, so silently I can almost (almost) believe comfort is to be found in forgetting … for me it is the daily liturgy of trees and birds, sky and silence, deer and crocus - the dust of the earth and the crying stones - that most artfully speaks the wordless languages of return.
And oh, how I have needed to return and return and return again this Lent.
I fell into the lament and austerity of this season like I was stumbling into a lover’s arms, sobbing and seeking respite from the incessant and impossibly escalating not-God-ness of our present world. Disease and destruction, lies and violence, everywhere another and another and another unnecessary death. I needed to find the quiet place again. I needed to be found again. I needed God to be the only true thing again. And then from the heavens the snow fell. I could breathe.
In the blessed emptying of everything around me into the soft and luminous white, the snow-silence was a lullaby to my heart. Though the world continued its raging, while walking the snow-felled forest, bathed in holy hush, God breathed the breath of life in me once more. Everywhere beauty. Everything beautiful. Black-brushed hawks painting their circles above the bare and reaching branches, sky washed in blue. The tiniest red berries cascading along a whisper of vine, unspooling into impossible loveliness along the snow-drifted trunk of a downed tree.
One day at a time in the blessed empty fullness of winter’s Lent, God called me home again in the wordless languages of Creation, making beauty everywhere - even of fallen things.
Miraculous Wordless Voices
As Palm Sunday draws near, the snow is melting. The gentling winter is waking raucously into birdsong and pouring rain. Browns and greens - mosses and lichens, buds and shoots - line the forest path singing their own songs of life of life of life! Everywhere ferns most ancient unfold their glorious fronds, so delicate, so graceful, so shockingly enduring. The whole noisy crowd joyfully praising God in their loud wordless voices for all the miracles they have seen: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! This is God’s world, from beginning to end. While I cannot fathom it, God is in it all. God is with us all. At the base of the stump of a huge tree fallen long years ago, a tiny fern frond unfurls through the crust of ice. In the fading quiet, the revived stone of my heart cries out.
Just another miracle of the God who makes beauty everywhere, even of fallen things.