Palm [or is it Passion?] Sunday

For almost two millennia, Christian pilgrims have journeyed to the Holy City of Jerusalem to re-enact the events of the last week in the life of Jesus. Beginning with his celebrated entrance into Jerusalem amid shouts of “Hosanna Lord, Hosanna!” and progressing through the Last Supper, betrayal and arrest, Golgotha, and empty tomb, Christian faithful from throughout the world have traced the steps of our Lord that fateful week.

Here at home, we must rely on ritualized acts of worship to commemorate Jesus’ last days. We wave palm fronds, wash one another’s feet and the Holy Altar, hear dramatic readings of the Passion, attend vigil before the Blessed Sacrament, pray at the foot of a cross, and keep watch as we await what we know has already occurred, the Resurrection of our Savior. In all of these ceremonies of worship, the gathered community rehearses salvation history, hearing once again the stories of God’s love for humanity despite our resistance to accept that love.

Today, Palm Sunday [or Passion Sunday, as some call it] offers us a glimpse into Holy Week as if in fast-forward motion. Traditionally most liturgical communities will begin the day with an entrance rite which mirrors that of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and in less than a quarter of an hour jump all the way to Good Friday, with the proclamation [or re-enacting] of the Passion. The reason for this sudden change is simple: because of over-burdened schedules, most people nowadays do not partake of worship opportunities during Holy Week and thus won’t hear the Passion. Putting Palm Sunday with the Passion Gospel on the same day only makes sense, otherwise we’d go straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday—joy and triumph followed by joy and triumph with Passion in between!

All convenience aside [for that is, in all honesty, what is going on here] some congregations do things a bit differently by keeping the Palm Sunday part, with all its “Hosannas” and palm waving for the greater part of the service, placing the Passion at the very end.

Not many of us can make pilgrimage to Jerusalem this time of year. But at least as the community of faith in our part of the world, we can participate in this most Holy of Weeks leading to Easter Joy!


Link to RCL Lectionary for Palm Sunday, Year B

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