In this panel from Strasbourg Cathedral, Jesus himself seems to be carrying a palm branch – symbol, as we know, of martyrdom.
And here we see the martyrs’ palm engraved on the War Memorial in Boffles, Picardy, France. These men might have paraded through crowds in Amiens on their way to the front, and are counted as ‘morts pour la Patrie’ – dead for France.
1914-18 did much to tear the heart from Christian Europe: too many clergy supported their own country’s War. Too many people died and suffered.
How do we face that? We remember that Christ rode into Jerusalem as Prince of Peace; that he would not let his disciples fight; that he told Pilate his Kingdom was not of this world.
Holy Week sees the would-be Messiah and liberator snuffed out by High Priest and Roman Governor, his followers broken, betraying themselves as well as him.
We too betray him and his Kingdom: that is, if he was who he said he was: the Prince of Peace, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
If his claim is true:
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
John Betjeman, Christmas.
If true, it changes everything. God lived a human life in Palestine, unto the bitter cup of disappointment and death.
We will never understand human wickedness and sin, however much suffering we see. But let us not despair: the palm was awarded to the martyrs because it was the symbol of victory in the ancient world.
Your redeemer comes, riding on a donkey, go out to meet him! Matthew 21:5; Zechariah 9:9.
The disciples’ courage after Easter testifies to the truth of what they learned about Jesus. Tradition says that Bartholomew was martyred by being flayed alive. This panel from his church in Chichester, shows his initials either side of the skinner’s knife, surrounded by palms. Picture: NAIB.