My name is Tamara. It was my parents' choice to name me as this Hebrew maiden. Tamara is palm branch, like we see in the triumphal entry laid at the feet of the donkey-riding Messiah. Crushed under the feet of hopeful crowd, obedient animal hoof, verdant branches return to arid desert soil. Become dust again.
For centuries the Church ground up the branches waved in worship on Palm Sunday, lived the cycle of life and light again, and marked the foreheads withe the charry cross on Ash Wednesday.
Joel 2:12 - 17: "Yet even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart,with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments."Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful,slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster."
At mass at the Catholic church a few blocks from my house with my beloved Macia, we watched the foreheads of our little city go from shiny oil to blackened grit. Each sign of the cross a mirror over bodies all-too-familiar with death, sin, decay. Even the least among us, the baby carried to the priest, darkened with the visible sign of invisible truth. From dust we came, to dust we return.
I find it strangely peculiar that the very people naming themselves after the Christ who took on dusty flesh in order to redeem peoples from their flesh, try so hard to forget the frailty of their humanity. Who long only for triumphal entries without crucifixion and death, which of course means no resurrection and life. We keep trying to make the Church walk on coloured coats instead of ground, thinking our Top 40, mass-marketed liturgies and worship noise will drown out the hungry rumbles in our stomachs. The creaking of our broken hearts. The rattly breath of death blowing on our necks.
Even the baby in that church yesterday knew better. So did the one sleeping in Bethlehem dirt.
"Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, 'Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'"