We gathered in the anteroom and were given palm fronds to hold. After a prayer of blessing we formed a line and entered the sanctuary, palm leaves in hand. Once around the sanctuary while singing “Ride on, Ride on in Majesty,” and then to our seats.
In the mean time Jesus had found a place at the front. Judas was in the back and Peter off to one side. Caiaphas and a few chief priests and elders were above us, up in the balcony. And Pilot was up there as well, standing off on his own.
Thus began the narration with the readers adopting their roles…and as well, a part for us, the crowd. We made our way through Matthew’s description of Judas’s sellout to Caiaphas, Jesus’ anguish in the garden, the betrayal of Peter, and the desertion of the disciples.
As a crowd, we found our voices during the trial. In response to Pilate’s question about who to release we said, “Barabbas.” And in reply to Pilate’s, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” We all said, “Let him be crucified!”
Of course there was no resemblance to the dusty, sweaty, bloody, event. No one was dressed for the part. And while we tried, “the crowd” was lacking conviction…and yet, in that cavernous sanctuary there was this second, one meteoric moment where I was placed in the swirling fomenting mood of the bloodthirsty crowd, calling, with everybody else, “Crucify him!”
Liturgy, this liturgy, was an iconic entrance into an event where symbol confronted me with the actual.