Bring on the empty donkeys

oldest palm sunday donkey 1055 Palm Sunday church processions have always centred around Christ on a donkey. This image of the processional donkey on wheels is thought to be the earliest surviving Palm Sunday donkey.

Jesus rode a donkey because it is a humble creature but it is also associated with royalty. The prophet Zechariah wrote: “Behold, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9) King Solomon rode to his messianic coronation on a donkey that had belonged to David (1 Kings 1:33-44). King Jehu rode into Samaria over the garments of his followers in order to destroy the temple of the false god Baal (2 Kings 9:11-10:28).

The modern church procession makes the mistake of putting an empty donkey at the head of the procession, which is obviously very popular with children but quite misses the point. Here we see an example from Hepworth church with three empty donkeys.
Hepworth church totally misses the point


The Donkey
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.


About Gareth Thomas

After a mixed career as an aircraft technician, London fringe theatre playwright, Franciscan friar, and secondary school teacher, I find myself looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca. I like to listen to BBC Radio 4 and the wind in the pine trees. My favourite film of all time is "Jean de Florette" as it details the concerns of country people and quietly shows how evil enters our lives through mundane and petty matters. Now retired, I have lost the need to fight past battles and recognize that my various contributions to life - both ecclesiastical and secular - have been enjoyable, sometimes flawed, occasionally disastrous; but mostly times worth celebrating.
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6 Responses to Bring on the empty donkeys

  1. toad says:

    “Monstrous head”?

    You got some nerve calling anyfing else monstrous, Gil!
    Not ‘xacly Twiggie yerself, are yer?

    Donks are noble. Very fine one in the painting. Nothing monstrous about it.

  2. Frere Rabit says:

    Happy Easter, Toad! The “monstrous head” of Matilde, my biggest donkey is best respected from a distance or grasped tightly. Just one sudden flick of her head can knock you out! I went to school with a thick lip one morning from a head butt in the face while fussing over Matilde…

  3. toad says:

    Mattie practising what is commonly known among British tourists as, “The Benidorm Kiss,” I think.
    Happy Easter to youse, and all, from one lager lout to another.

  4. dogtorbill says:

    Happy Easter Brother, I enjoy your stuff!
    I leave for SJPP on April 16.
    Follow me and please comment (including blogging advice) – I readily admit I’m a complete technoidiot.

  5. Frere Rabit says:

    Welcome to the blog. Buen Camino!

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