Isaiah 50: 4-9
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Le us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
I was born on the hundred and first day of a leap year, in a year when that 101st day just happened to be Palm Sunday… This is normally the hundredth day of the year in non-leap years such as 2013. So I always cheat and celebrate my birthday twice every year—once for secular purposes on the hundredth day of the year birthday and another for “spiritual purposes” on Palm Sunday.
Today, March 24, is only the 83rd day of the year but it starts a fortnight and a half of birthdays of so many people who have been important in my life. The State Department’s John K. Naland, my best friend in my college years at Tulane, celebrates his birthday tomorrow, March 25, on the day that MIGHT have been selected for Christmas at the Council of Nicaea but lost by a narrow vote to December 25. On Wednesday Peyton Yates Freiman and his brother Andrew turn 30. Jon Drew Roland, Fernando Robles Castellanos, Beatriz Repetto Tio de Maldonado and Apolonio Betancourt Ruiz.
The year I was born, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, Richard Nixon was Vice-President, Earl Warren was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Lyndon B. Johnson was Senate Democratic leader and Price Daniel, Sr., was Governor of Texas. The Oscars for “Best Picture” and “Best Director” (Billy Wilder) in that 33rd year of the Academy Awards went to a movie which is nearly totally forgotten called “the Apartment” (which is only now remembered at all because Kevin Spacey dedicated his 1999 Oscar for the brilliant American Beauty to Jack Lemmon’s performance in the Apartment.) Go Figure! On the whole it was a really horrible year but none of that was my fault. Price Daniel, Sr. being the Governor of Texas was the best aspect of the time, politically speaking, although the Governorship of James (“Jimmie”) Houston Davis in Louisiana was the cultural and artistic highlight (singing “Sunshine, You Are My Sunshine”).
Today I learned several things I never knew before—the name “Palm Sunday” is not traditional—it only started being used officially in the Episcopal Church in the 1928 prayerbook, but that’s the Book of Common Prayer I grew up with and I just never noticed the difference between that and my mother’s older English Church Prayerbook where it is called “The Sunday of the Passion.” In admiring the Cathedral Dean’s Vestments, I learned that the color of Holy Week is not (at I had always thought) “Crimson” (like the Harvard Doctoral gown I wore exactly once in my life for graduation in 1990), but a much more Anglo-Saxon or Chaucerian sounding “Ox Blood Red.”
Psalm 31: 9-16 IN TE, DOMINE SPERAVI
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorry, and also my throat and my belly.
For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.
I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors, a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me.
I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot.
For I have heard the whispering of the crow fear is all around; they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life.
But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, “You are My God.”
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hands of mine enemies, and from those who persecute me.
Make your face to shine upon your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me.