Palm Sunday

13Apr14

Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entrance of Christ into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9), when palm branches were placed in His path, before His arrest on Holy Thursday and His Crucifixion on Good Friday. It thus marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent, and the week in which Christians celebrate the mystery of their salvation through Christ’s Death and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Beginning in the fourth century in Jerusalem, Palm Sunday was marked by a procession of the faithful carrying palm branches, representing the Jews who celebrated Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. In the early centuries, the procession began on the Mount of the Ascension and proceeded to the Church of the Holy Cross.

As the practice spread throughout the Christian world by the ninth century, the procession would begin in each church with the blessing of palms, proceed outside the church, and then return to the church for the reading of the Passion according to the Gospel of Matthew. The faithful would continue to hold the palms during the reading of the Passion. In this way, they would recall that many of the same people who greeted Christ with shouts of joy on Palm Sunday would call for His Death on Good Friday-a powerful reminder of our own weakness and the sinfulness that causes us to reject Christ.

In different parts of the Christian world, particularly where palms were historically hard to obtain, branches of other bushes and trees were used, including olive, box elder, spruce, and various willows. Perhaps best known is the Slavic custom of using pussy willows, which are among the earliest of plants to bud out in the spring.

The faithful have traditionally decorated their houses with the palms from Palm Sunday, and, in many countries, a custom developed of weaving the palms into crosses that were placed on home altars or other places of prayer. Since the palms have been blessed, they should not simply be discarded; rather, the faithful return them to their local parish in the weeks before Lent, to be burned and used as the ashes for Ash Wednesday.

Prayer for Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

 (This prayer is designed to be said within the family before a Crucifix on Palm Sunday and during Holy Week.)
Mother or a child:
(Taken from the words of Pope Pius XII On the Sacred Liturgy. )
Dearly beloved, in Holy Week, when the most bitter sufferings of Jesus Christ are put before us by the liturgy, the Church invites us to come to Calvary and follow in the blood-stained footsteps of the Divine Redeemer, to carry the Cross willingly with Him, to reproduce in our hearts His spirit of expiation and atonement, and to die together with Him.
Father:
We ought to glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
Family:
in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection.
Father:
Let us pray.
All-powerful, eternal God, You have chosen to give mankind a model of humility; our Savior took on our flesh, and subjected Himself to the Cross. Grant us the grace to preserve faithfully the lessons He has given us in his Passion and to have a share in His resurrection. This we ask of You through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.
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