The word “emotion” derives from the Latin word movere, to move. It’s literally related to movement – like, the movement in our senses that is brought about by the movement of our thoughts or attention or perception. It might be a movement from calm to excited, or from acceptance of however things are now to eager anticipation of what things will become.
The internal movement in the state of our minds and hearts might be related to the movement of our bodies, or some part of them. The movement of our entire bodies in procession. The movement of arms waving, feet moving, vocal chords vibrating. The movement of eyes closing in prayer. The movement of tears down faces.
Palm / Passion Sunday, observed this past Sunday, is largely about movement. Everyone in the story is in motion. Jesus on the back of that donkey. Disciples and cheering crowds and nervous onlookers. Christians all around the world commemorate the events of the first Palm Sunday, whether in grand ways or small gestures, by moving around worship spaces and waving palms and singing traditional songs and generally remembering – in the way we have of remembering something that we never actually experienced ourselves, and are nevertheless participants in – this event of moving the story right into the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Which moves us right into the passion narrative. Because the modern world and liturgical reform have taught us that not everyone gets to “special services” in the middle of the week, even in the middle of this unusually holy week. So we have moved the events of the week up. Fitting, in a way, because at this point in the story everything is moving too fast, and taking hideous turns in the process.
The story may be holy, but it is horrible, too. It forces us to face what it means to suffer. What it means for anyone to suffer. But especially someone who doesn’t deserve it. It forces us to face what it means to cause suffering.
It is hard, maybe impossible, NOT to be moved by the brutality of our own human world. Which has not changed, except maybe in its efficiency, since the Romans. Or by the courage required to face it down, and bend it back into the shape of life.
We – humanity, collectively – are still trying to make it through that longer cosmic Saturday.
Thankfully, in the meantime, here and there, we see signs of life. Movement. Emotion.
Image: “Red flowers on a Crabapple along Apple Barrel Court in the Franklin Farm section of oak Hill, Fairfax County, Virginia,” by Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons”Red flowering Crabapple along Apple Barrel Court in the Franklin Farm section of Oak Hill, Fairfax County, Virginia” by Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons