Turn Aside and Look: One Far Fierce Hour

photo of a rescue donkey courtesy of Anna Blake at Infinity Farm  annablakeblog.com

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings…

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.
G. K. Chesterton from “The Donkey”

photo of Edgar Rice Burro by Anna Blake, Infinity Farm  annablakeblog.com

Palm Sunday is a day of dissonance and dichotomy in the church year, very much like the donkey who figured as a central character that day.  Sadly, a donkey gets no respect, then or now– for his plain and awkward looks, for his loud and inharmonious voice, for his apparent lack of strength — yet he was the chosen mode of transportation for a King riding to His death.

There was a motley parade to Jerusalem: cloaks and palms laid at the feet of the donkey bearing the Son of God,  the disorderly shouts of adoration and blessings, the rebuke of the Pharisees to quiet the people, His response that “even the stones will cry out” knowing what is to come.

But the welcoming crowd waving palm branches, shouting sweet hosannas and laying down their cloaks did not understand the fierce transformation to come, did not know within days they would be a mob shouting words of derision and rejection and condemnation.

The donkey knew because he had been derided, rejected and condemned himself, yet still kept serving.  Just as he was given voice and understanding centuries before to protect Balaam from going the wrong way, he could have opened his mouth to tell them, suffering beatings for his effort.  Instead, just as he bore the unborn Jesus to Bethlehem and stood over Him sleeping in the manger,  just as he bore a mother and child all the way to Egypt to hide from Herod,  the donkey would keep his secret well.   Who, after all,  would ever listen to a mere donkey?

We would do well to pay attention to this braying wisdom.  The donkey knows.   He bears the burden we have shirked.  He treads with heavy heart over the palms and cloaks we lay down as our meaningless symbols of honor.   He is servant to the Servant.

A day of dichotomy — of honor and glory laid underfoot only to be stepped on.   Of blessings and praise turning to curses.  Of the beginning of the end becoming a new beginning for us all.

And so He wept, knowing all this.  I suspect the donkey bearing Him wept as well, in his own simple, plain and honest way, and I’m quite sure he kept it as his special secret.


3 thoughts on “Turn Aside and Look: One Far Fierce Hour

  1. I think this is the most perceptive acknowledgment of donkeys I’ve ever read. For many years, my donkeys and I went to churches on this Sunday and usually heard the word “humble” used, but this is a more dimensional understanding. As someone who has trained, or been trained by donkeys over the years, I have immense respect for these creatures who respond to peace and kindness, and resist harshness of any kind. Beyond that, I think to ride a donkey softly says more about the rider most non-longeared people would understand. It’s authenticity; the teaching of Jesus in action, if that makes sense. Wishing you donkey peace and understanding in this blessed season, Emily. Thank you from all of us.


  2. So beautifully said. No wonder many of us are drawn to the wisdom seen in the eyes of a donkey. The quiet understanding.


  3. Thank you, Emily, for your presentation today, Palm Sunday. It has touched my soul in a very special way. It has caused me to ‘look within,’ to strive more earnestly and fairly to look and see ‘with the eyes of Jesus.’
    So often we make snap judgments about people. We pigeon-hole, narrowly define and categorize them. We look but we see only the external. We do not see beyond to the soul where the ‘real’ person exists. I think that one of the greatest gifts that Jesus, the Incarnate God, has given to us is the desire, the ability, to see as He saw – to look at everything: our brothers and sisters –ALL of humanity – as we are and not as others wish us to be; and to His Creation in all of its majesty, wonder, and beauty.


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