The Palm and The Wood |
God used His creations to create the Symbols of Salvation for His special creation: man.
"The wood became the Cross that is our destiny and our vehicle to salvation and the palm became significant only because it led to the wood of the Cross."
They are so different in form and feel. One is bright, almost glowing in the sunlight; the other is dark, almost sucking light into its interior. One is soft, waving with the wind; the other is hard, standing firm and rough. One is easily held in one hand, convenient and comfortable to the grasp. The other can at times be too heavy to hold for any length of time, sometimes much too heavy for comfort and certainly not convenient by any means. One refreshes with a cool wave; the other prompts sweat and splinters. One was used as an ancient symbol of greeting and honor, a version of the handkerchiefs and banners of today. The other was used as an ancient symbol of punishment, the more violent and bloody version of today's execution by needle. Lastly, one was used before the glorified and praised, a silent compliment usually supported by shouts of welcome and adoration. "Hosanna!" The other was used before the condemned and vilified, a silent insult usually supported by shouts of anger and mockery. "Crucify Him!" Despite their symbolic distance, these two objects became the eternal bookends of the core of Catholic faith, The Passion of Christ.
The Palm: The Secular New Order
Though the blessed palm is a sacramental, like candles on Candlemas and ashes of Ash Wednesday, everything else about the palm talks of The New Order. The palm is all about visible glory and praise. It is all about appearances and superficiality. It is nothing if not about the present and the temporary. The palm's glow tells us that what glitters is what matters. Its softness tells us that being flexible and moldable is important in a society where following the crowd is important. There is nothing profound beyond the palm's appearance and purpose. It is a banner woven by nature used to make a big deal out of something which this world thinks is important. The palm tells us that we should enjoy the present because that is all that matters. The past is old news and the future is a mystery, but the present is here and now and the palm is the sketch of that hear and now.
Palms seem to focus on being new and are not very attractive when worn or old. Palms are fairly uniform and similar in appearance and form. Their slight variations and differences are suppressed in the sea of their similarity and unison. As far as I know there aren't many versions or types of palms. One is as good as the other and a bunch of them can often become one in a sea of bright, waving glow. In fact, if there was a palm very different from the others among a bunch of them, that unique palm would stand out like a sore thumb distorting and disrupting the seeming beauty of the rest, like a chipped tooth in a beautiful white row of perfect teeth. In summary, the palm is superficial, temporary, uniform, mindless adoration and nothing beyond that other than the harboring fronds created by God.
The Wood: More Than Meets The Eye
Everything about wood talks of eternity. It is all about strength and somber tones.
When one wets wood the moisture seems to seep within its hard exterior, revealing a hidden, almost profound interior. Wood is not about superficiality; there is something more there inside than meets the eye. It seemingly tells the story of past events and gives the impression that it will remain with us for as long as we want it to do so. When we think of wood we imagine an ancient tree whose inner rings tells tales of a deep history. Palms do not petrify and are perishable, wood is unique in that age enhances its worth.
Its beauty is profound with varying shades and tones. It is useful, sturdy, and reliable.
One imagines Noah's Ark as an embodiment of what wood can do. Wood does not seem to be concerned with flexibility, changing moods, or popularity. Rather, it stands firm and hard against many winds without regard to their direction. Neither does wood seem concerned with the passage of time. It seems very content to watch that time pass with simple acceptance of the inevitability of the process. In fact, many people actually like weathered wood over new wood, admiring its appearance like one admires wrinkles of wisdom on a face. In that sense wood rejects The New Order's distaste for age and the wisdom of the past. In turn, The New Order prefers plastics, formicas, and synthetic metals to wood for they are easier, lighter, less cumbersome, and demand less from the user. Wood, on the other hand, does not pretend to be anything other than what it is. It can be heavy, difficult, cumbersome, and inconvenient and does not seem concerned to hide that fact. Lastly, wood comes in many types and styles which are clearly different yet work together for varying purposes. The blemishes and natural stains on wood seem to disappear in the simple naturalness of wood itself. We approach wood expecting it to have its own character so we are not shocked when it has unique markings. In fact, many people looking for a very uniform wood often comment that it almost looks fake.
Sacred Salvation Over Superficial Symbol
In the hands of God's plan, both the palm and wood found a purpose, for God Almighty is all good and He alone knows how to make good of all. Without offending neither the palm nor wood, The Divine Creator found the rightful purpose for each in His plan of salvation. Jesus Christ was greeted by palms as Holy Week began because that was the start of His transition from this world to His realm and so He played by the secular, temporary rules and symbols of this world. The palms spoke their piece in the superficial, temporary, false praise of this world and found the ground and dirt once their purpose was done. They moved from the sky to the soil, first being used to wave and then being thrown to be trampled once their temporary role was complete. Is this not what this world is about? Does it not use people and things for a given temporary purpose and then discard them without regard? Is it not concerned more with appearances than loyalty, permanence, and eternity?
In the wood, however, Our Savior found the fulfillment of His purpose and mission. In its cold surface He expressed the warmth of God's love for us while in the warmth of palms waving in the sun we see the cold winds superficial, selfish betrayal. In the wood's cumbersome weight Our Savior expressed His desire to lighten our load while in the light palm we see the weight of our hypocrisy, superficiality, and sin. In the wood's rigid hardness Our Lord expressed God's gentle compassion and endless mercy for those who seek Him in humble contrition. On the other hand, we see in the flexible palm the rigid legalism that conceals respect for God and replaces it with sin clothed as freedom and virtue. It was the wood of the thorns that first felt the Savior's blood while it was the palm that signaled the upcoming betrayal that would cause it. Finally, it was from the wood that our Salvation hung while it was through palm that our betrayal was reflected.
The wood became the Cross that is our destiny and our vehicle to salvation and the palm became significant only because it led to the wood of the Cross.
One would be hard pressed to find two more different materials or objects than a palm and wood, yet God Almighty used these two materials to render our salvation. Each has its own purpose and its unique character. The palm alone is nothing but a symbol of everything The New Order is about. Wood alone is merely the building material we all know. Each has been replaced in their roles with the passage of time, but their combination in the path of salvation has rendered each of these materials a great eternal significance. We do not recall or respect the use of plastic or aluminum yearly, but we do this for wood. We do not recall grass or flowers in any particular form on a yearly basis, but we do this for the palm. In the Sacred Hands of Our Creator, these two materials have transcended their usual role and form and become symbols of our salvation.
Their role and purpose in that most important of missions will mark them in our memory long after plastic, aluminum, and any plants are recycled and gone.
Editor's Note: Heaven is once again under attack by those who would seek to ignore and overthrow God's majesty and authority. Gabriel Garnica, educator and attorney, submits regular insights and commentaries to remind and help guide readers toward a deeper and more assertive faith. Touching on topics and issues ranging from personal faith, doctrine, education, scripture, the media, family life, morality, and values, Gabriel's notes are music to traditional ears but unpleasant tones to those who have bought into the misguided notions so prevalent and spreading in today's Catholic world.