Psalm Sunday – the Role of the Ass

How many people happily take an Easter holiday and have no idea why it is a holiday? Today is Psalm Sunday, the doorway to the final steps taken by Jesus Christ to his crucifixion. To look deeply into this event we might need to scrape away all the mesmerising and often trivial images the church has implanted into human minds over the centuries. Palm Sunday is not a story about an event in the life of a man who lived 2,011 years ago; it is the story about what is happening within us NOW!

And when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Beth’phage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon. Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” Mt 21:1-10

This ass and its colt have not just been tied up, they have been bound, the Greek word is deo, which means tightly bound, perhaps in chains. These animals represent our animal nature, our astral or earthly ego which often behaves like an ass. This is the seat of our emotions, our feelings, our sympathy and antipathy and it can have a paralysing and polarising effect on us.

If we are to develop our spiritual nature then we must tie up our animal nature, we must bind it strongly so that it cannot work against us. We find this animal nature in our instincts, in fact, in all our behaviour that is animal-like. This is the part of us that is called our astral body or astral being and it is here that we find the human ego. The ego is an important part of us because it essentially ensures that we prevail. We live in a society where everyone is striving to prevail. Mostly we are unaware of this until we are in a situation where one person has the opportunity to go first, or get something, or be chosen and so on. Then the ego steps up and says, “Pick me!”

So the ego has ensured our survival but at some point we must have the experience that we have prevailed, that we have focussed on ourselves sufficiently and that something higher begin to operate. So then we bind the ass and any offspring it may have. This binding represents the end of a cycle in our development. Then, when we are ready to proceed we can unbind the ass which is like the symbol a spiral, it changes from the inturn to the outturn. Then we ride on it. We demonstrate that we have conquered our animal nature, our astral – which has been so necessary in carrying us thus far in our development. This ass and its colt now have a higher function; when they are conquered in our physical being they can then operate in our spiritual being as Imagination. They then represent the depth of feeling we can have when we create images in our mind to bring to life the true concepts of human nature which in the highest is our I AM. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The Lord is the kurios which means our I AM.

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