Sunday, March 04, 2012

"HOSANNA! "- WHAT'S IN A WORD?

The Temple at Jerusalem with the ramp and stairs , but the Great Stairs were across the way on the opposite side of the Temple and were most likely those used by the Pilgrims and Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Model by F Jenkins. Note the Roman Fortress Antonia overlooking the Temple Courts, the large Outer Court is the Court of the Gentiles occupied by the Moneychangers and the sacrificial animal vendors- all of who Our Lord drove out, to the consternation of the Temple Authorities who profited from the licenced dealers.

HOSANNA!

For my Lenten Spiritual reading, I have this year set aside " The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ" by the great Archbishop Alban Goodier S.J., to read "Jesus of Nazareth  - HOLY WEEK " by Pope Benedict XVI. Just like the first volume "Jesus of Nazareth", the Holy Father's steady deliberate style and deep scholarship, produce a fascinating text. And one which is packed with information, insights and inspiration. Very early in the piece we come across the origins and meaning of the word " Hosanna":

"P6 The Entry into Jerusalem"


"....They pluck branches from the trees and and cry out verses from Psalm 118, words of blessing from Israel's pilgrim liturgy, which on their lips become a 'Messianic proclamation: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!"(Mk. 11: 9-10 ; cf. Ps. 118: 26).

The acclamation is recounted by all four evangelists,albeit with some variation in detail.There is no need here to go into the differences, important though they are for "tradition criticism" and for the theological vision of the individual evangelists. Let us try merely to understand the essential outlines, especially since the Christian. Liturgy has adopted this greeting, interpreting it in the light of the Church's Easter faith.

First comes the exclamation "Hosanna!". Originally this was a word of urgent supplication, meaning something like: " Come to our aid! The priests would repeat it in a monotone on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, while processing seven times around the altar of sacrifice, as an urgent prayer for rain. But as the Feast of Tabernacles gradually changed from a feast of petition into one of praise, so too the cry for help turned more and more into a shout of jubilation(cf. Lohse, TDNT IX, p682).

By the time of Jesus, the word had also acquired Messianic overtones. In the Hosanna acclamation,then, we find an expression of the complex emotions of the pilgrims accompanying Jesus and of his disciples: joyful praise of God at the moment of the processional entry, hope that the hour of the Messiah had arrived, and at the same time a prayer that the Davidic kingship and hence (God's kingship over Israel ) would be reestablished.

The distinctive cover of Part 2 of
the Holy Father's "JESUS OF NAZARETH"


As mentioned above, this passage from Psalm 118: "Blessed is he who enters in the name of the Lord!" had originally formed part of Israel's pilgrim liturgy used for greeting pilgrims as they entered the city or the Temple. This emerges clearly from the second part of the verse: "We bless you from the house of the LORD." It was a blessing that the priests addressed and, as it were, bestowed upon the pilgrims as they arrived. But in the meantime, the phrase "who enters in the name of the LORD" had acquired Messianic significance. It had become a designation of the one promised by God. So from being a pilgrim blessing , it became praise of Jesus , a greeting to Him as the one who comes in the name of the Lord, the one awaited and proclaimed by all the promises......"

There is much more following this quotation , going on to describe and analyse the expectations of those Jews accompanying Our Lord on that Palm Sunday. The whole of the book is itself a feast of information, of understanding, and of insight. All of these elements helping us to understand the Gospel better and more fully, and, as the Holy Father intends, help us to get closer to Jesus and the realities of His Life among us.

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