The those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
In the Episcopal Church, we use lots of unfamiliar words. With some education, this is done well when we strike the balance between embracing the mystery of holiness, while helping newcomers find their way through the narthex and into the nave for Holy Eucharist. During Lent, we forego the use of word alleluia, but our liturgy, especially on The Sunday of the Passion *colon* Palm Sunday is rife with the word with which it is often confused:
I am often asked why we can’t say alleluia during Lent, but hosanna is ok. Its context within the Liturgy of the Palms is a helpful teaching tool. As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, it would be easy to see this scene as nothing but a joyful victory parade, but upon further review, we realize that this is actually the humble entrance of one who has come to offer himself as a sacrifice for the whole world.
Jesus didn’t come into Jerusalem riding on a white stallion or in the back of a jewel encrusted chariot. Rather, he arrived in town atop an unbroken colt. This animal was not a symbol of power and control, but a humble beast of burden, only borrowed by our Lord as a means of transportation. The imagery must have been clear to the crowd, for even as they laid down palm branches along the path as a symbol of honor and respect, they cried out not “Alleluia” or “Praise to God.” The cry of the crowd, as they watched their long-awaited hope ride into town was instead, “Hosanna” or “Save us, we pray. Sure, maybe they thought salvation would look like a military victory over their Roman occupiers. Perhaps they hoped that this Passover Feast would be a second opportunity for release from bondage and oppression. But they didn’t assume that, and give praise to God. Instead, they simply asked for God’s help and salvation.
We who will remember the events of that day would do well to know the word we will sing in the refrain of “All glory, laud, and honor.” From this side of Easter, it would be easy to let our sweet hosannas be a cry of victory, but it doesn’t take too long to see that the world is still very much in need of God’s saving love. Save us, we pray. Save us from our idolatry. Save us from our greed. Save us from our scarcity mindset. Save us from our selfishness, our oppression of others, and our bondage to sin. Save us, we pray. Hosanna!