After a quick, morning-prayer, Fratelli donned his scarlet vestments and walked to the cathedral just as sun rose above the hills. Approaching a huge crowd of people who gathered before the cathedral, bright, green palms in their hands, Fratelli donned his miter, making sure it wasn’t lopsided or too loose. Rodrigo stood, also wearing red vestments next to Father Adreo, a younger priest who handed Fratelli a container of glistening holy-water. With this Fratelli sprinkled and blessed the entire crowd.
Then they processed inside, mimicking the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, waving their palms in the air, chanting “Hosanna Filio David!”
Hymns sounded beautifully, incense smoke rose in the air as Fratelli walked ahead sprinkling more water in front of him. Sunlight streamed through stained glass splashing the air blue, yellow and magenta. All sat meditatively and stood attentively as the Gospel account of Christ’s passion was read aloud, different readers assuming different parts, chanting fluidly. Now the whole space fell silent. Some garments rustled and a child’s voice was hushed. Their eyes settled on Fratelli.
Sitting, posture regal in his chair beside the altar, he began, his tone weak at first then gaining strength:
“Tell ye the daughter of Sion: Behold thy king cometh to thee… (1) Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation (2)” Long have we awaited the day, verily have the prophets yearned: when we would hear these words- Your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation. This King is different from the rest, coming on a humble ass but bringing salvation! Salvation!
Who brings salvation but God? Jesus the Son Of God- True God, comes himself to deliver his people, to fulfill the Scriptures. Yet, we know that also to fulfill the Word of God which the prophets spoke, he must suffer and die. Just as the Savior of mankind arrives humbly arrayed, he dies in abject humility. He rules from the throne of the cross, paying our ransom in his blood. His Kingdom is one in which glory is purchased by suffering.
It is not easy…truly he said: If you do not take up your cross, you are not worthy to follow after me. He not only saves us but calls us to be more than passive spectators. We who are unworthy, we who are small, we all have place in his coming into kingship as did the lowly ass. How he beckons each one of us! Jesus speaks upon this day saying: Come forth and bear Zion’s King!”
Following the Mass, Fratelli welcomed Ernesto, his brother and Michele, Ernesto’s wife, to his house for breakfast. Gianni, a neighborhood boy who Dina had taken in, followed after them, eagerly sitting at the table between Fratelli and Father Rodrigo. Though this wasn’t the boys place, Fratelli ignored him as he snatched an olive from a nearby, glass bowl. Father Adreo, a younger, black-haired priest also noticed and sat elsewhere, his face betraying slight frustration.
Ernesto helped himself to a plate of roasted tomatoes, spinach pastry and figs. The meal was large, somewhere in between breakfast and lunch… Dina came, bringing tea.
“I would like you to join us,” Fratelli told her, “Sunday should be a day of rest for you too.”
“Your Eminence, I would rather work,” she protested.
“Nonsense, sit down,” he replied, lightly laughing.
She sat in the small seat beside Michele. Ernesto put an arm around Michele, whispering something in her ear. Then he addressed the gathering:
“Michele wants you to know that her baby is coming along well…”
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if the child was born on Easter Sunday?” Fratelli responded.
“Well, it will be very soon,” Michele stated, gazing down at her swollen figure.
Sensing her apprehension, Ernesto said,” My dearest, you still look beautiful as when I first met you.”
While the others smiled and giggled with joy, Gianni fidgeted, not entirely understanding. He grew bored from their conversation and excused himself.
“Gianni,” Fratelli suddenly said.
The boy froze in place. He continued, “Remember to meet me early next morning. We aren’t through preparing you for First Holy Communion.”
“Yes’sir…” Gianni mumbled.
“What was that?”
“Yes, Your Eminence.”
Fratelli leaned back appearing satisfied. Dina briefly frowned towards him for being so demanding. It was only proper, the cardinal mused, that he should learn these things and do them well. He also silently mused about Michele’s pregnancy. Anxiously, he waited to be an uncle. He likes the sound of that very much: “Uncle Angelo”. A sharp voice broke his thoughts:
Father Adreo shouted from his distant place:
“I’ve been asking you to pass the olives for a whole minute.”
Reluctantly, he relinquished this favorite fare, passing it down towards the priest’s ready hands. When everyone had finished, Fratelli rose to embrace his brother. The others unseated and bustled about, urging Dina to escape into the kitchen with an empty teapot.
Once they all exchanged farewells, Fratelli scurried away to the downstairs, private chapel, to be alone and to think. However, soon as he knelt before the small altar and it’s dancing, yellow candles, Rodrigo and Adreo entered and joined him. While they recited prayers, their voices melding together, Fratelli stuffed his annoyance deep inside. After all, the Savor of mankind has come, why should he be downcast?
After several minutes, Fratelli moved to stand but found himself oddly pinned in place. He stared at Adreo’s one knee planted firmly on the hem of his garb. He tried to gently pry the fine cloth loose. It didn’t budge. He attempted a second time then concluded the Lord required more prayer from him.
(1) Matthew 21:5
(2) Zechariah 9:9