A few days ago we commemorated Christ’s entry into Jerusalem riding a donkey. On that day, we are told in the gospel accounts, the people cut palm branches and waved them in honor of Him as he rode. Each year on Palm Sunday, at many churches in New England, we distribute palms on this Sunday before Easter as a tactile reminder of that triumphal entry. The leaves of the palm are broken off the frond and given to worshipers separately. Some of us enjoy weaving the palm leaves into various things, the most common being a cross– a grim reminder that the same crowds that applauded Jesus with “Hosanna!” on Sunday shouted for his crucifixion a few days later.
When a palm leaf has just recently been split off from the base of the frond, it is supple, green, lively, and easily woven into symbolic, tactile reminders of the events of Holy Week. Skillful fingers organize the leaves into images that we keep on fireplace mantels and dressers as the days of the week pass by. Pictured above is just such a cross.
Ah, but after a day, that palm leaf that has been separated from its frond is no longer green and supple. It starts withering and drying out immediately, as it stiffens into whatever shape it has been given. The crosses and donkeys made of palm leaves become dry, colorless, and easily crumpled. Apart from the frond, those leaves wither and die.
In John 15:1-6, Jesus tells us: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he removes, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, as a branch he is thrown away and withers.
This year I looked it an unbroken palm bud four days later. All of the palm leaves, still attached to the frond, were still supple and green. They were abiding.
Christ commands us to abide in Him. In Him is life.