“The Donkey” has been waiting for the right occasion. Dennis Aubrey’s photographs and commentary “The Ineffable” on Via Lucis Photography linking suffering and beauty led me fetch “The Donkey” from the “draft” file today for reasons hard to explain.
What I love about Dennis’s commentaries is that he refuses to engage in simplicities that reduce ambiguity to something manageable.
It led me this morning to The Passion (“suffering”) of Jesus, which begins Palm Sunday with a mistaken public perception: the Redeemer is a King who will vanquish the Roman “King” and who, perhaps, by his “Triumphal” Entry, will triumph over suffering.
The wish to escape suffering is, in some way, the kiss of death. There are Christian theologians today who argue that we should remove the cross as the central Christian faith symbol because it glorifies suffering, shifts the focus away from Jesus’ life, and contributes to the perpetuation of violence. But to do so would be to run and hide from the peculiar mystery of the human condition described by Dennis Aubrey’s piece – the ineffable and the beautiful in the face of suffering. The truth is in the paradox and the contradiction.
Steve’s poem brings all of that to mind. Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem to free it from its military-economic occupiers and from its own violent self. The Passion continues to arrest our deepest soul in the mystery of life in the face of suffering and the abyss of nothingness. As Dom Sebastian Moore observed, “the crucified Jesus is no stranger” – we put him there…and we are he.
A Poem for Palm Sunday: “The Donkey: a Kid’s Verse…”
The coats the folks are throwing down
sure make it hard for me to walk
especially carrying this clown
whose feet are almost to the ground.
“Hosannah King!” is all the talk,
but this guy seems to be as poor
as I am–no one could mistake
him for a Royal–he’s just a fake!
They wave palm branches, and they roar,
but my long ears can hear the real
parade across the city square:
the General, the Priests, the score
of war horses–the whole grand deal.
This pitiful parade will fail
to save a soul, and soon the yell
will change from “Hail!” to…”Kill!”
– Verse by Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 28, 2012