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Palm Sunday

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Palm Sunday is an Easter celebration that commemorates the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 where Jesus makes his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. The event took place one week prior to His resurrection, and it is a day that kicks off the Holy Week. But why the palms?

The palms we now wave in our Palm Sunday celebrations represent the palms that were waved by the crowd and placed in Jesus’ path when he rode the donkey into Jerusalem. In many churches the palms are then saved to be burned after and used the following year in the Ash Wednesday services. Many churches also call Palm Sunday by “Passion Sunday.” References to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem can be found in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19: 28-44, and John 12:12-19. Common phrases heard on Palm Sunday have their roots in the original celebration. Many cheer, “Hosannah,” which means “Save us now,” as many saw the Christ as one that would save them from the Roman rule. Today, though, Palm Sunday celebrations take place around the world. Palm branches are a part of Christian worship on Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, as it is sometimes called.

This event commemorates Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as foretold by the prophet Zechariah. The Bible tells us people cut branches from palm trees, laid them across Jesus’ path and waved them in the air. They greeted Jesus not as the spiritual Messiah who would take away the sins of the world, but as a potential political leader who would overthrow the Romans. Their shout “Hosanna” meant “save now.” In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. They were often depicted on coins and important buildings. Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29). Again at the end of the Bible, people from every nation raise palm branches to honor Jesus (Revelation 7:9). Today, many Christian churches distribute palm branches to worshipers on Palm Sunday. The people remember Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, praise him for the gift of salvation, and look expectantly to his second coming. On Palm Sunday Christians celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, the week before his death and resurrection.

For many Christian churches, Palm Sunday, often referred to as “Passion Sunday,” marks the beginning of Holy Week, which concludes on Easter Sunday. The Bible reveals that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him by waving palm branches and covering his path with palm branches. Immediately following this great time of celebration in the ministry of Jesus, he begins his journey to the cross. The biblical account of Palm Sunday can be found in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels.[3] In many Christian churches, Palm Sunday is marked by the distribution of palm leaves (often tied into crosses) to the assembled worshippers. The difficulty of procuring palms for that day’s ceremonies in unfavorable climates for palms led to the substitution of boughs of box, yew, willow, olive, or other native trees. The Sunday was often designated by the names of these trees, as Yew Sunday, or by the general term Branch Sunday. Biblical basis and symbolism

In the accounts of the four canonical Gospels, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem takes place about a week before his Resurrection.[4][5][6][7][8] The symbolism is captured in Zechariah 9:9 “The Coming of Zion’s King – See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”. It was perceived that Jesus was declaring he was the King of Israel to the anger of the Sanhedrin. According to the Gospels, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and the celebrating people there lay down their cloaks in front of him, and also lay down small branches of trees. The people sang part of Psalms 118: 25–26 – … Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord …. The symbolism of the donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war. A king came riding upon a horse when he was bent on war and rode upon a donkey when he wanted to point out he was coming in peace.

Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem would thus symbolize his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king. In many lands in the ancient Near East, it was customary to cover in some way the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honour. The Hebrew Bible (2Kings 9:13) reports that Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, was treated this way. Both the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John report that people gave Jesus this form of honour. However, in the synoptics they are only reported as laying their garments and cut rushes on the street, whereas John specifies fronds of palm (Greek phoinix). In Jewish tradition, the palm is one of the Four Species carried for Sukkot, as prescribed for rejoicing at Leviticus 23:40. The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory in the Greco-Roman culture of the Roman Empire, and became the most common attribute of the goddess Nike or Victory. For contemporary Roman observers, the procession would have evoked the triumph, when the triumphator lay down his arms and wore the toga, the civilian garment of peace that might be ornamented with emblems of the palm.

Although the Epistles of Paul refer to Jesus as “triumphing”, the entry into Jerusalem may not have been regularly pictured as a triumphal procession in this sense before the 13th century. In ancient Egyptian religion, the palm was carried in funeral processions and represented eternal life. The palm branch later became a symbol of Christian martyrs and their spiritual victory or triumph over death. In Revelation 7:9, the white-clad multitude stand before the throne and Lamb holding palm branches. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Palm Sunday was marked by the burning of Jack-‘o’-Lent figures. This was a straw effigy which would be stoned and abused. Its burning on Palm Sunday was often supposed to be a kind of revenge on Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Christ. It could also have represented the hated figure of Winter whose destruction prepares the way for Spring. Observance in the liturgy

The congregation in an Oriental Orthodox church in India collects palm fronds for the Palm Sunday procession (the men of the congregation on the left of the sanctuary in the photo; the women of the congregation are collecting their fronds on the right of the sanctuary, outside the photo.

Dates for Palm Sunday
In Gregorian dates|
Year| Western| Eastern|
2010| March 28|
2011| April 17|
2012| April 1| April 8|
2013| March 24| April 28|
2014| April 13|
2015| March 29| April 5|
2016| March 20| April 24|
2017| April 9|
2018| March 25| April 1|
2019| April 14| April 21|
2020| April 5| April 12|
2021| March 28| April 25|
2022| April 10| April 17|

Eastern and Oriental Christianity
In some of the Orthodox Church, Palm Sunday is often called the “Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem”, is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the liturgical year, and is the beginning of Holy Week. The day before is known as Lazarus Saturday, and commemorates the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. Unlike the West, Palm Sunday is not considered to be a part of Lent, the Eastern Orthodox Great Fast ends on the Friday before. Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday and Holy Week are considered to be a separate fasting period. On Lazarus Saturday, believers often prepare palm fronds by knotting them into crosses in preparation for the procession on Sunday. The hangings and vestments in the church are changed to a festive color – gold in the Greek tradition and green in the Slavic tradition. The Troparion of the Feast indicates the resurrection of Lazarus is a prefiguration of Jesus’ own Resurrection: O Christ our God

When Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion, Thou didst confirm the resurrection of the universe.
Wherefore, we like children, carry the banner of triumph and victory, and we cry to Thee, O Conqueror of love, Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.

In the Russian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Catholic Church, Ruthenian Catholic Church, Polish, Bavarian and Austrian Roman Catholics, and various other Eastern European peoples, the custom developed of using pussy willow instead of palm fronds because the latter are not readily available that far north. There is no canonical requirement as to what kind of branches must be used, so some Orthodox believers use olive branches. Whatever the kind, these branches are blessed and distributed together with candles either during the All-Night Vigil on the Eve of the Feast (Saturday night), or before the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. The Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy commemorates the “Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem”, so the meaningfulness of this moment is punctuated on Palm Sunday as everyone stands, holding their branches and lit candles. The faithful take these branches and candles home with them after the service, and keep them in their icon corner as an evloghia (blessing).

In Russia, donkey walk processions took place in different cities, but most importantly in Novgorod and, since 1558 until 1693, in Moscow. It was prominently featured in testimonies by foreign witnesses and mentioned in contemporary Western maps of the city. The Patriarch of Moscow, representing Christ, rode on a “donkey” (actually a horse draped in white cloth); the Tsar of Russia humbly led the procession on foot. Originally, Moscow processions began inside the Kremlin and terminated at Trinity Church, now known as Saint Basil’s Cathedral, but in 1658 Patriarch Nikon reversed the order of procession. Peter I, as a part of his nationalisation of the church, terminated the custom; it has been occasionally recreated in the 21st century. In Oriental Orthodox churches, palm fronds are distributed at the front of the church at the sanctuary steps, in India the sanctuary itself having been strewn with marigolds, and the congregation proceeds through and outside the church. Western Christianity

In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. They were often depicted on coins and important buildings. Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29). Again at the end of the Bible, people from every nation raise palm branches to honor Jesus (Revelation 7:9).

Catholic Bishop entered the church to celebrate solemn pontifical Mass of Palm Sunday, in the traditional form of the Roman rite. 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.†††G.T.K 2.4.12 In the Roman Catholic Church, as well as among many Anglican and Lutheran congregations, palm fronds (or in colder climates some kind of substitutes) are blessed with an aspergillum outside the church building (or in cold climates in the narthex when Easter falls early in the year). A solemn procession also takes place. It may include the normal liturgical procession of clergy and acolytes, the parish choir, or the entire congregation.

In the Catholic Church, this feast now coincides with that of Passion Sunday, which is the focus of the Mass which follows the service of the blessing of palms. The palms are saved in many churches to be burned the following year as the source of ashes used in Ash Wednesday services. The Catholic Church considers the blessed palms to be sacramental. The vestments for the day are deep scarlet red, the color of blood, indicating the supreme redemptive sacrifice Christ was entering the city to fulfill: his Passion and Resurrection in Jerusalem. In the Episcopal and many other Anglican churches and in Lutheran churches, as well, the day is nowadays officially called “The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday”; in practice, though, it is usually termed “Palm Sunday” as in the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer and in earlier Lutheran liturgies and calendars, to avoid undue confusion with the penultimate Sunday of Lent in the traditional calendar, which was “Passion Sunday”. In the Church of Pakistan (a member of the Anglican Communion) on Palm Sunday, the faithful carry palm branches into the church, as they sing Psalm 24. In many Protestant churches, children are given palms, and then walk in procession around the inside of the church while the adults remain seated.

In the Philippines, communities re-enact Jesus’ triumphal entry with a procession. A statue of Christ on the donkey or the officiating priest
mounted on horse process around or towards the local church, surrounded by palm-bearing churchgoers. In some towns, elderly women spread heirloom “aprons” (made for this sole purpose) or large cloths along the procession route in imitation of the Jerusalemites. Children dressed as angels sometimes sing the Osana (“Hosanna”) whilst strewing flowers about. Once blessed, the ornately woven palaspas (palm branches), are taken home by the faithful and are placed on altars or hung beside, on or above doorways and windows. Although the true purpose of this custom is to welcome Jesus Christ, many Filipinos hold the branches to be apotropaic, able to turn away any evil spirits, avert lightning and fires. There is also a folk tradition of feeding pieces of the palm leaves to roosters for cockfighting, a primitive belief strongly discouraged by the Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle.

Ash Wednesday maybe the first day of lent that occurs 46 days before Easter. However, in some parts of the Philippines, Filipinos regard Palm Sunday as the start of Lenten season. Palm Sunday is a Christian movable feast that falls before Easter Sunday. In the Philippines, it is usually marked by the blessing of ‘palaspas’ or palm leaves. Palm Sunday honors the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as a Prince of peace. In the early traditions, boys tend to carry palaspas to be sanctified by their local priest. Nowadays, everyone can carry palm leaves. The feast takes place either outside or inside the church. While most Catholic Church perform the blessing of palaspas in every scheduled mass of the day, locations with smaller populations do the blessing usually in the morning after the 6 o’clock mass. A procession in commemoration with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem takes place in the afternoon.

The palm leaves or palaspas is kept at home, hanging by the door or by the window. Most Filipinos regard palaspas as a safeguard for warding off evil spirits or ill luck. However, keeping palm leaves by the house entry is actually to welcome Jesus Christ in their homes. Palaspas is also saved by most churches for the following year Ash Wednesday service. Dried palaspas or palm leaves are burned down as source for ash. Ash Wednesday maybe the first day of lent that occurs 46 days before Easter. It may be the period, which symbolizes the beginning of the forty day liturgical period of prayer and fasting. But, for some Filipino Catholics, the real essence of Lenten season is felt on Palm Sunday for this festivity also marks the start of traditional pabasa – a reading or singing of the Life and Passion of Jesus Christ. In some areas, houses are also set up for the 14 Stations of the Cross where devotees can also participate in celebration for the Lenten season.

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