Sunday, April 28, 2002

I will be posting for the next two weeks from Venice, Florida, on the Gulf Coast. Quite a change from springtime in the mountains. Packing for the trip, I had to raid the back drawers of the dresser for clothing that would normally be in storage until late June. As I type, the neighbor's palm trees are rustling in the 80+ degree breeze. This seems appropriate, as earlier today I attended services for Orthodox Palm Sunday. Here at my parents' house I go to Holy Spirit Orthodox Church , just a block away. Holy Spirit is a small congregation, mostly retirees, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The church building is a converted bank. The roof of the drive-thru still projects from the side. The vault is still in place, visible behind the altar. Like much of Orthodoxy in this country it has a improvised, home-made quality about it. The great strength of a living tradition is the ability to adapt without discarding the good that came before. The palm branches we held were bundled with pussy-willows; the willows an earlier improvisation coming from Slavic tradition in regions where palm trees are unknown .

The ad-hoc nature of our celebration yesterday fit with the original biblical scene. Jesus' triumphal entry was itself an ad-hoc affair. No trumpeters, no chariots, no flags or banners. Just people using what was at hand, fronds stripped from trees, garments thrown down in the streets to praise a coming King. In the same way, we raised our voices, some old and wavering, to sing the words of the ancient liturgy in a space salvaged out of the modern age, using what was at hand to praise that same King.

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