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  • Writer's pictureGreg Dover

Greg's Weekly Word: "hosanna"

"Guatemala: Procession" by Betty LaDuke (1978)

It's a word that shows up in each of the Gospel stories of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (except in Luke, which is the one we read and heard this past week for Palm Sunday). Hosanna!

And it's a weird word. In fact, it might not even be a word at all.

I've read a number of commentators and scholars that it is a contraction of two Hebrew words (yasha and nah), together meaning, "Save us, please!" or "Deliver us, we pray!"

But the reading I prefer - and that I think is more meaningful - is understanding it to be an exclamation that doesn't really have a meaning that can be translated...kind of like shouting out, "Yippee!" or "Hot dog!"

(Or, for you parents and caretakers of young children who watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog!)

No one who shouts that out is referring to a beef frank in a bun. They are just saying a word as an exclamation of support, or praise, or trust, or hope.

I guess the question, then, is What prompts such an exclamation from us? Is it the humble One who rides on a donkey and not a majestic stallion? The One followed by a rag-tag crowd instead of a platoon in polished armor? Is it the way of service and sacrifice, standing with the oppressed and suffering, that led to this same One's death at the hands of the powerful?

Perhaps this Palm Sunday and Holy Week, we can reflect on what excites our exclamations. And then, as we follow the One to the cross (and beyond), maybe on Easter morning we will have the best of reasons - the hope of new life, the triumph of justice and mercy, love overcoming even death - to say, "Yippee! Hot dog! Hosanna! And thanks be to God!"


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