Hosanna in the Highest
“When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel’.” John 12:12-13
At every Mass, we cry out with the people of Jerusalem. We sing the same words with the angels and the saints during the liturgy of the Eucharist as we proclaim, “Hosanna in the highest!”
It’s pretty easy to understand the word “hosanna” as a hymn of praise for a king. It accompanies Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and it is the sound of a people acknowledging their Lord. The word expresses the magnitude of Christ’s strength, power, and sovereignty.
However, what often goes forgotten is that in saying “hosanna”, we are acknowledging our own weakness, too. In fact, the original Hebrew word is rooted in salvation. Hosha’na is a shortened form of the full Hebrew phrase meaning, “Save us, we pray!” It is a word of humble supplication, begging for help and deliverance.
It is quite comfortable to cry out “Hosanna!” in celebration. On the sunny streets of Jerusalem, we can wave our bright palm branches and delight in God’s presence with us. But we must also carry the word into the darker days, when our own weakness is overwhelmingly apparent. We must acknowledge the areas where we are weak, so that the Lord can enter into our hearts as the Triumphant Savior He is.
The dual meaning of “Hosanna” lends itself perfectly to our identity as children of God. I can imagine a child, arms raised above his head and a smile spread across his face, as he jumps from the side of a pool yelling to his dad in the water, “Dad! Catch me!” In a moment of joy, he acknowledges his father’s strength and forgets his own weakness. However, the same child might later cry out in a panic, “Dad! Help me!” as he starts to drown in the deep end. Here, the child is wildly aware of his inability to swim and completely reliant on his father’s strength to save him.
Are you able to shout “Hosanna!”, “God, help me!”, or “Dad! Save me!” in moments of both joy and sorrow? Are you willing to acknowledge not only the Lord’s power to save, but your need to be saved, too?
As the people of Jerusalem were quite aware of their need for a savior, we must also be aware of the areas in which we are weak and in need of God’s saving grace. Hopefully, after struggles and triumphs of Lenten sacrifice, prayer, and generosity, we have both acknowledged our weaknesses and begun to allow the Lord into them. If you haven’t done so, I invite you to reflect on the days of your Lenten journey so far. Where have you fallen? Where have you crowned Him king? Have you become aware of a new weakness? Have you allowed Him into it all?
As we enter into Holy Week, let us cry “Hosanna!” together from the depths of our hearts, laying palms down as He enters with strength and power into our deepest sins and shortcomings.
Kathryn Hurd is a senior studying strategic communications and anthropology at K-State. She's a maker, a walker, a butterfly-spotter, and a lover of a good children's book. You can read more of her words, ramblings, and random interests here.