I had a rare opportunity to begin Holy Week in Espana. I went to Mass at the Cathedral de Santa Maria la Real de La Almudena in Madrid yesterday for Domingo de las Palmas Misa. In English that means I went to the Cathedral in Madrid for Palm Sunday Mass. I love architecture and history and this place has both. It took over 100 years to build the cathedral. It’s adjacent to the Royal Palace. It is apparently built over a Moorish mosque that was destroyed in 1085. As early as the 1500’s plans were discussed for building a cathedral in Madrid. Construction didn’t actually begin until 1879 and due to the Spanish Civil War the project was abandoned until the 1950’s. The cathedral is very modern in European terms – Pope John Paul II dedicated it in 1993. It has a Neo-Gothic interior and Neo-Romanesque crypt. It is an amazing structure. The way the light filled the space seemed truly divine.
As beautiful as the building is, what actually made my experience so memorable was the excitement of the people. We began with a procession outdoors in the vast courtyard between the Royal Palace and the Cathedral. The clergy and dignitaries were carrying palms but most of us in attendance had bunches of olive branches mixed with Rosa Maria (rosemary). I suppose it’s fitting that we were waving olive branches in Spain; you see olive orchards from central Spain to the coast when traveling by train. The music was being broadcast outdoors and it filled the courtyard and beyond – all the way to Plaza de Espana. I felt as if I was being lifted up by the voices in the choir. The atmosphere was truly celebratory.
HOSANNA A NUESTRO REY! HOSANNA EN LAS ALTURAS!
Of course I was only able to understand a little of what was being said during Mass but because our Church is truly universal I knew that my friends and family were listening to the same Passion account in my parish at home. And I was able to understand many parts of the Mass (if not all of the words). It’s amazing this faith of us ours – ancient yet new; timeless yet present. I took tremendous joy today in knowing that millions of Catholics (and other Christians) were celebrating Christ’s triumphant journey into Jerusalem in much the same way. The fact that I was celebrating in Spanish made it all the more special. It made me realize that in French or German or Spanish or English; whatever language that faith-filled people speak the message is the same:
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
What I’m reminded of again this Holy Week is that Jesus died for our sins – it’s easy to think of our collective sinfulness and of Christ’s saving grace. What’s harder for me to wrap my head (and heart) around is the fact that He died for the sins I committed today and will likely commit tomorrow. His death and suffering was for you and me. He wasn’t crucified just for those who lived 2000 years ago. His sacrifice is as real today as it was on Calvary. How we embrace it and reconcile ourselves to His unconditional love is entirely up to us.
Wishing you each a peace-filled and blessed Holy Week. May you find the comfort this Easter Season that only our Savior can bring.