6th April, 2020

Homily for Palm Sunday


Please see below Fr Gabriel's welcome and Homily from Palm Sunday 5th April 2020

On behalf of Fr Abbot and the monastic community I welcome you to this Mass on this very different Palm Sunday. I am Fr Gabriel.

We are just very conscious of the absence of our usual congregation and the virtual presence of many of you by audio or video streaming. You in turn will be very conscious of the closure of churches and Mass behind locked doors with you locked out.

I gather there is an initiative today to place a palm if left over, unless you are lucky enough to have a palm tree in a garden, or otherwise a piece of foliage in the window or above the door. It is a reminder that your home is a cell of the Universal Church.

Mass today is without the usual Palm Sunday procession and there will be no processions and no concelebration throughout the liturgies of the Triduum. We are still joined in a bond of prayer and in the body of Christ and that is a bond nonetheless more real than anything we do see and hear.


The readings for Matins during Lent contain the story of the Exodus, beginning with the ten plagues visited upon Egypt. It is the start of a great story of salvation Towards the end of the book of the Apocalypse, the final book of the Bible, which looks forward to the end and fulfilment of that story, there are seven bowls of plagues emptied upon the earth.

Key to the tenth plague in Exodus is the blood of a lamb, the Passover sacrifice. In the book of the Apocalypse at the heart of the throne of God there is again a lamb, who seemed to have been sacrificed. Redemption, salvation from all the plagues that assail us, comes only through this lamb sacrificed.

Between these two is our Gospel this Palm Sunday of the Passion, the account in truth of the sacrifice of that lamb, this year the Matthew Passion. It is an account giving meaning, whatever the times and circumstances, to our lives and bringing salvation, notwithstanding that it seems to be the opposite. We are called and invited not just to listen to it, but to enter into it and to live it. We are called and we can enter into it and in it find life.

The meaning of this longest of the gospel readings of the year, and of the four Passion accounts, Matthew’s the longest, is contained already and immediately in its beginning, in the last supper. Jesus says of the bread: take and eat, this is my body. And of the cup, drink this, it is my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins. The passion takes its issue and its meaning from this supper, just as our reading of the passion takes it issue and its meaning from this Mass here celebrated.

Then almost immediately to the cup of wine, that is blood, there are added other cups, or is it rather that they are aspects of the one cup, of this one mystery which is being unfolded? At the supper there is a reference immediately after the giving of the cup to this fact that Jesus will drink no more wine until the day he drinks the new wine with his disciples in the kingdom of his Father. This hint at resurrection becomes clearer in a few verses as they move from the upper room to the mount of Olives: ‘after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee’. Without resurrection, without the new wine in the kingdom of the Father, there is no rescue, no forgiveness, no salvation, no work of saving love.

Jesus then comes to the Mount of Olives, to Gethsemane, to an agony of prayer. And again there is a cup. It has become a cup of suffering, of hatred, persecution, torture and agonizing death. Jesus prays: ‘if it is possible let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be, as you, not I, would have it’. A little earlier in the gospel James and John had thought it an easy promise to share this cup, but when it comes to the point they run away: ‘then all the disciples deserted him and ran away.’ After the trials, the flogging, the crowning with thorns, after the way of the cross, as the nails are about to be driven in, they give him a cup of wine mixed with gall, which he tastes but refuses. He tastes the gall, he refuses the wine which he will not drink again. But there is a cup and he is drinking it. Without the cup of suffering, which the Lord drinks for us, and we drink in him and with him, there is no rescue, no forgiveness, no salvation, no work of saving love.

The chalice of the Mass is a cup of suffering, blood poured out and drunk. It is, in an old phrase, already as bad as it gets, because the worst has already happened. God came and we killed him. The chalice of the Mass is at the same time a cup of promise, sealed in this promise for us by the resurrection of the Lord from the dead. It is the promise of the kingdom of the Father and of the great feast in it.

This year the impossibility for most believers of sacramental communion and real, rather than virtual, presence at the Mass, is a terrible loss and a grief. But God will not be thwarted in the fulfilment of his promise, now or ever. The purpose and goal of the sacraments will be achieved. You will drink with him in the kingdom of his Father. You are still called to enter into this kingdom and to live and you will