Holy Week: Palm Sunday

by Sal on April 8, 2009

in Religion

Hosanna to the Son of David.  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, O King of Israel.
Hosanna in the Highest.

As the Entrance Song above illustrates, Palm Sunday (also known as Passion Sunday or Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion) is the prologue to the great celebration of the Paschal Mystery known as Holy Week.  For part two of my six-part series on Holy Week, we will look at this prologue and how it sets the stage for the heart of the Holy Week celebration, the Triduum, to follow.

The Palm Sunday liturgy begins differently than the usual Catholic liturgies by beginning in a separate place.  Often, this is in the back of the church, but ideally it is in a separate chapel or place from which the people can process.  Palm branches are given and blessed, as the people sing Hosanna to the King of Kings who is about to suffer and die for our sins.  The Gospel story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem recounts how Jesus was greeted as savior and king as he entered the city of Jerusalem, only to be tried, crucified and buried within a week.  Christ is savior and king, but not in the way that the people of Jerusalem in A.D. 33 expected.  They were expecting a savior who would save them from oppression and suffering, and a king who would restore Israel to a place of power in the world as God’s chosen people.  Yet even with this triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus humbled Himself and showed that he was a different kind of king by riding in on a donkey. Following the Gospel, a procession to the altar takes place with palms to reenact that entry into Jerusalem, as we walk with Jesus on his journey towards Calvary.

The readings prefigure both the suffering that Christ will endure (“I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard, my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting” and “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”) and his ultimate victory and nature as God in what has to be one of my absolute favorite New Testament readings:

Because of this, God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father.

The triumphant entry gives way to solemnity as the Gospel is read.  The Gospel reading also is different on this day, as it recalls the Passion which Christ will endure.  It is traditionally read in four parts, divided up into Narrator, Christ, Voice (for other speakers in the Gospel), and Crowd, which is taken by the congregation.  In this way, all in the Church participate in the redemptive act of Christ’s death.

The rest of the Liturgy remains the same as a normal Mass, as we commemorate the Passion and receive Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, but the tone that is set is one of somber solemnity, which is unparalleled in other liturgies throughout the Church year.  As the prologue, it sets the stage for what is to follow on Holy Thursday Evening, at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Scripture Podcast, Judas & links | The Anchoress
April 8, 2009 at 11:40 am
Holy Week: An Introduction | Axis of Right
April 9, 2009 at 7:13 am
Holy Week: Holy Thursday | Axis of Right
April 10, 2009 at 8:33 am

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Previous post:

Next post: