Today, this "Second Sunday of the Passion," is the memorial of Christ's
"triumphant," but misunderstood, entry into Jerusalem, the day that begins
Holy Week. This entry into Jerusalem is seen as the prophetic fulfillment
of Zacharias 9:9-10 :
O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING
will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass,
and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will destroy the chariot out of
Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken:
and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea
to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.
Before the Mass
is the Blessing of the Palms, which includes an Antiphon, Psalms, and Gospel
reading. Then comes the Procession with hymns, when we carry the palms either
around the church or outside, weather permitting, and then the Mass, during
which there is a very long reading sung in 3 parts by 3 deacons (or
priest and deacons such as the case may be) -- a long recitation of the Passion,
including Matthew 26:36-75 and Matthew 27:1-60. Prepare for a very long
Carrying palms (or olive or willow branches, etc., if palms aren't available)
in procession goes way back into the Old Testament, where it was not only
approved but commanded by God at the very foundation of the Old Testament
religion. In the fall of the year, after the harvest, when the people gathered
for the Feast of Tabernacles God said in Leviticus 23:40:
And you shall take
to you on the first day the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm
trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook: And you shall
rejoice before the Lord your God.
Again we read of
palms in the II Machabees 10:6-8:
And they kept
eight days with joy, after the manner of the feast of the tabernacles,
remembering that not long before they had kept the feast of the tabernacles
when they were in the mountains, and in dens like wild beasts. Therefore
they now carried boughs and green branches and palms, for him that had given
them good success in cleansing his place. And they ordained by a common statute,
and decree, that all the nation of the Jews should keep those days every
And in the 7th
chapter of the Apocalypse, we see that those who were "sealed" are seen by
John carrying palms:
After this, I saw a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations
and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and in sight
of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. And they
cried with a loud voice, saying: Salvation to our God, who sitteth upon the
throne and to the Lamb.
palms are blessed before the High Mass today. Vested in red cope and standing
at the Epistle side of the Altar, the priest recites a short prayer, and
then reads a lesson from the book of Exodus which tells of the children of
Israel coming to Elim on their way to the Promised Land, where they found
a fountain and seventy palm trees. It was at Elim that God sent them manna.
After a few verses from the New Testament, the priest reads the story of
Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem the Sunday before His death, and
about how the people put palms in the Savior's path and sang hosannas because,
ironically, they expected a temporal victory by the One they thought would
be the great military leader who would conquer the Romans.
Then we pray, begging God that we may in the end go meet Christ, that we
may enter with Him into the eternal Jerusalem. The following preface and
prayers ask God to bless the palms, that they may be sanctified and may be
a means of grace and divine protection to those who carry them and treasure
them with faith.
The palms are distributed to the people at the Communion rail. The priest
will press the palm against your lips so you can kiss it, and then kiss his
hand. Alternatively, the palms may be handed out by the altar boys. In any
case, Scripture and prayers follow, and then a procession of clergy, servers,
and people through the church or outside around the church.
When Mass is finished,
we take the palms home and hang them over crucifixes or holy pictures (I
don't know how universal this is, but an Italian and French custom is to
break off a piece of the palm and, while praying to
St. Barbara for relief, burn it in times
of great storms or natural disasters). Another custom is to shape the palm
into Crosses before hanging them (see below). The people of Italy and Mexico
shape palms into extremely elaborate and beautiful figures. Also, men in
some places will wear a piece of it in their hats or pin it to their lapels,
and a piece should also be placed with one's sick
Some of these same palm branches are saved and burned
the next year to make the ashes for the next Ash Wednesday -- the palms,
which symbolize triumph, and the ashes, which sympbolize death and penitence,
forming a great symbolic connection between suffering and victory. The next
year, when we get new palms, the old palms are burned and their ashes
Now, this day has in the past sometimes been called "Fig Sunday" because
just after Christ's entry into Jerusalem, He cursed the fig tree:
And the next day when they came out from Bethania, he was hungry. And when
he had seen afar off a fig tree having leaves, he came if perhaps he might
find any thing on it. And when he was come to it, he found nothing but leaves.
For it was not the time for figs. And answering he said to it: May no man
hereafter eat fruit of thee any more for ever. (also Matthew 21:18-19)
This cursing is
undoubtedly a reference to what would happen to those of Israel who rejected
the Messias, as revealed in this parable:
He spoke also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard,
and he came seeking fruit on it, and found none. And he said to the dresser
of the vineyard: Behold, for these three years I come seeking fruit on this
fig tree, and I find none. Cut it done therefore: why cumbereth it the ground?
But he answering, said to him: Lord, let it alone this year also, until I
dig about it, and dung it. And if happily it bear fruit: but if not, then
after that thou shalt cut it down.
Because of the
cursing of the fig tree, the eating of figs is customary, and here are a
few ways to do so:
Ways to eat
At this time of year, the figs you can get will be dried. First, snip off
any stems, then plump them up by letting them boil in water for 5 minutes
or so, and letting them stand in the water until cool. Now, some options:
1) Slice deep crosses into the tops of 8 oz. of figs and spread open. Blend
together 12 oz. of cream cheese and 4 oz. of Gorgonzola or blue cheese. Cut
crosses into the figs and stuff with the cheese mixture. Top with a pecan
half, chill, and serve cold.
2) Quarter figs. Cut thin slices of prosciutto in half lengthwise. Wrap each
quarter in the prosciutto so it resembles a rose. Sprinkle with fresh lime
juice and freshly ground black pepper.
3) Coarsely chop 1/2 cup pecans and mix with 8 oz. cream cheese. Slice figs
in half lengthwise and spoon cheese mixture into each half.
4) Cut a slit into Calimyrna figs and stuff each with a pistachio. Slice
a piece of Canadian-style bacon in half lengthwise. Top the bacon with a
fresh leaf of basil, and wrap both around a fig. Place seam-side down on
a jellyroll pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in a pre-heated
425 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until bacon is brown.
The Monday, Tuesday,
and Wednesday following Palm Sunday are another traditional time of cleaning.
Just as the house is cleaned during Advent in preparation for Christmas,
and just as Shrovetide is spent cleaning in preparation for Lent, these days
are spent in preparation of the greatest Feast of the Church year: the Feast
of Easter. By Wednesday night, the house should be spotless so that the days
of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) can be devoted
to Christ's Passion.
How to make palm Crosses to tuck behind
picture frames and hang on your wall
Palm Cross Drawings Copyright 2000 S. A. Keith of
from Dom Gueranger's
"The Liturgical Year"
Eearly in the
morning of this day, Jesus sets out for Jerusalem, leaving Mary His Mother,
and the two sisters Martha and Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus, at Bethania.
The Mother of sorrows trembles at seeing her Son thus expose Himself to danger,
for His enemies are bent upon His destruction; but it is not death, it is
triumph, that Jesus is to receive to-day in Jerusalem. The Messias, before
being nailed to the cross, is to be proclaimed King by the people of the
great city; the little children are to make her streets echo with their Hosanna
to the Son of David; and this in presence of the soldiers of Rome's emperor,
and of the high priests and pharisees: the first standing under the banner
of their eagles; the second, dumb with rage.
The prophet Zachary had foretold this triumph which the Son of Man was to
receive a few days before His Passion, and which had been prepared for Him
from all eternity. ' Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion! Shout for joy,
O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy King will come to thee; the Just and
the Saviour. He is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal
of an ass.' Jesus, knowing that the hour has come for the fulfilment of this
prophecy, singles out two from the rest of His disciples, and bids them lead
to Him an ass and her colt, which they would find not far off. He has reached
Bethphage, on Mount Olivet. The two disciples lose no time in executing the
order given them by their divine Master; and the ass and the colt are soon
brought to the place where He stands.
The holy fathers have explained to us the mystery of these two animals. The
ass represents the Jewish people, which had been long under the yoke of the
Law; the colt, upon which, as the evangelist says, no man yet hath sat, is
a figure of the Gentile world, which no one had ever yet brought into subjection.
The future of these two peoples is to be decided a few days hence: the Jews
will be rejected, for having refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias;
the Gentiles will take their place, to be adopted as God's people, and become
docile and faithful.
The disciples spread their garments upon the colt; and our Saviour, that
the prophetic figure might be fulfilled, sits upon him, and advances towards
Jerusalem. As soon as it is known that Jesus is near the city, the Holy Spirit
works in the hearts of those Jews, who have come from all parts to celebrate
the feast of the Passover. They go out to meet our Lord, holding palm branches
in their hands, and loudly proclaiming Him to be King. They that have accompanied
Jesus from Bethania, join the enthusiastic crowd. Whilst some spread their
garments on the way, others cut down boughs from the palm-trees, and strew
them along the road. Hosanna is the triumphant cry, proclaiming to the whole
city that Jesus, the Son of David, has made His entrance as her King.
Thus did God, in His power over men's hearts, procure a triumph for His Son,
and in the very city which, a few days later, was to clamour for His Blood.
This day was one of glory to our Jesus, and the holy Church would have us
renew, each year, the memory of this triumph of the Man-God. Shortly after
the birth of our Emmanuel, we saw the Magi coming from the extreme east,
and looking in Jerusalem for the King of the Jews, to whom they intended
offering their gifts and their adorations: but it is Jerusalem herself that
now goes forth to meet this King. Each of these events is an acknowledgment
of the kingship of Jesus; the first, from the Gentiles; the second, from
the Jews. Both were to pay Him this regal homage, before He suffered His
Passion. The inscription to be put upon the cross, by Pilate's order, will
express the kingly character of the Crucified: Jesus of Nazareth, King of
the Jews. Pilate, the Roman governor, the pagan, the base coward, has been
unwittingly the fulfiller of a prophecy; and when the enemies of Jesus insist
on the inscription being altered, Pilate will not deign to give them any
answer but this: ' What I have written, I have written.' To-day, it is the
Jews themselves that proclaim Jesus to be their King: they will soon be
dispersed, in punishment for their revolt against the Son of David; but Jesus
is King, and will be so for ever. Thus were literally verified the words
spoken by the Archangel to Mary, when he announced to her the glories of
the Child that was to be born of her: ' The Lord God shall give unto Him
the throne of David, His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob
for ever.' Jesus begins His reign upon the earth this very day; and though
the first Israel is soon to disclaim His rule, a new Israel, formed from
the faithful few of the old, shall rise up in every nation of the earth,
and become the kingdom of Christ, a kingdom such as no mere earthly monarch
ever coveted in his wildest fancies of ambition.
This is the glorious mystery which ushers in the great week, the week of
dolours. Holy Church would have us give this momentary consolation to our
heart, and hail our Jesus as our King. She has so arranged the service of
to-day, that it should express both joy and sorrow; joy, by uniting herself
with the loyal hosannas of the city of David; and sorrow, by compassionating
the Passion of her divine Spouse. The whole function is divided into three
parts, which we will now proceed to explain.
The first is the blessing of the palms; and we may have an idea of its importance
from the solemnity used by the Church in this sacred rite. One would suppose
that the holy Sacrifice has begun, and is going to be offered up in honour
of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel,
even a Preface, are said, as though we were, as usual, preparing for the
immolation of the spotless Lamb; but, after the triple Sanctus! Sanctus!
Sanctus! the Church suspends these sacrificial formulas, and turns to the
blessing of the palms. The prayers she uses for this blessing are eloquent
and full of instruction; and, together with the sprinkling with holy water
and the incensation, impart a virtue to these branches, which elevates them
to the supernatural order, and makes them means for the sanctification of
our soul and the protection of our persons and dwellings. The faithful should
hold these palms in their hands during the procession, and during the reading
of the Passion at Mass, and keep them in their homes as an outward expression
of their faith, and as a pledge of God's watchful love.
It is scarcely necessary to tell our reader that the palms or olive branches,
thus blessed, are carried in memory of those wherewith the people of Jerusalem
strewed the road, as our Saviour made His triumphant Entry; but a word on
the antiquity of our ceremony will not be superfluous. It began very early
in the east. It is probable that, as far as Jerusalem itself is concerned,
the custom was established immediately after the ages of persecution. St.
Cyril, who was bishop of that city in the fourth century, tells us that the
palm-tree, from which the people cut the branches when they went out to meet
our Saviour, was still to be seen in the vale of Cedron. Such a circumstance
would naturally suggest an annual commemoration of the great event. In the.
following century, we find this ceremony established, not only in the churches
of the east, but also in the monasteries of Egypt and Syria. At the beginning
of Lent, many of the holy monks obtained permission from their abbots to
retire into the desert, that they might spend the sacred season in strict
seclusion; but they were obliged to return to their monasteries for Palm
Sunday, as we learn from the life of Saint Euthymius, written by his disciple
Cyril. In the west, the introduction of this ceremony was more gradual; the
first trace we find of it is in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, that is,
at the end of the sixth, or the beginning of the seventh, century. When the
faith had penetrated into the north, it was not possible to have palms or
olive branches; they were supplied by branches from other trees. The beautiful
prayers used in the blessing, and based on the mysteries expressed by the
palm and olive trees, are still employed in the blessing of our willow, box,
or other branches; and rightly, for these represent the symbolical ones which
nature has denied us.
The second of to-day's ceremonies is the procession, which comes immediately
after the blessing of the palms. It represents our Saviour's journey to
Jerusalem, and His entry into the city. To make it the more expressive, the
branches that have just been blessed are held in the hand during it. With
the Jews, to hold a branch in one's hand was a sign of joy. The divine law
had sanctioned this practice, as we read in the following passage from Leviticus,
where God commands His people to keep the feast of tabernacles: And you shall
take to you, on the first day, the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches
of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you
shall rejoice before the Lord your God. It was, therefore, to testify their
delight at seeing Jesus enter within their walls, that the inhabitants, even
the little children, of Jerusalem, went forth to meet Him with palms in their
hands. Let us, also, go before our King, singing our hosannas to Him as the
conqueror of death, and the liberator of His people.
During the middle ages, it was the custom, in many churches, to carry the
book of the holy Gospels in this procession. The Gospel contains the words
of Jesus Christ, and was considered to represent Him. The procession halted
at an appointed place, or station: the deacon then opened the sacred volume,
and sang from it the passage which describes our Lord's entry into Jerusalem.
This done, the cross which, up to this moment, was veiled, was uncovered;
each of the clergy advanced towards it, venerated it, and placed at its foot
a small portion of the palm he held in his hand. The procession then returned,
preceded by the cross, which was left unveiled until all had re-entered the
church. In England and Normandy, as far back as the eleventh century, there
was practised a holy ceremony which represented, even more vividly than the
one we have just been describing, the scene that was witnessed on this day
at Jerusalem: the blessed Sacrament was carried in procession. The heresy
of Berengarius, against the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, had
been broached about that time; and the tribute of triumphant joy here shown
to the sacred Host was a distant preparation for the feast and procession
which were to be instituted at a later period.
A touching ceremony was also practised in Jerusalem during to-day's procession,
and, like those just mentioned, was intended to commemorate the event related
by the Gospel. The whole community of the Franciscans (to whose keeping the
holy places are entrusted) went in the morning to Bethphage. There, the father
guardian of the holy Land, being vested in pontifical robes, mounted upon
an ass, on which garments were laid. Accompanied by the friars and the Catholics
of Jerusalem, all holding palms in their hands, he entered the city, and
alighted at the church of the holy sepulchre where Mass was celebrated with
all possible solemnity.
This beautiful ceremony, which dated from the period of the Latin kingdom
in Jerusalem, has been forbidden for now almost two hundred years, by the
Turkish authorities of the city.
We have mentioned these different usages, as we have doneothers on similar
occasions, in order to aid the faithful to the better understanding of the
several mysteries of the liturgy. In the present instance, they will learn
that, in to-day's procession, the Church wishes us to honour Jesus Christ
as though He were really among us, and were receiving the humble tribute
of our loyalty. Let us lovingly go forth to meet this our King, our Saviour,
who comes to visit the daughter of Sion, as the prophet has just told us.
He is in our midst; it is to Him that we pay honour with our palms: let us
give Him our hearts too. He comes that He may be our King; let us welcome
Him as such, and fervently cry out to Him: 'Hosanna to the Son of David!'
At the close of the procession a ceremony takes place, which is full of the
sublimest symbolism. On returning to the church, the doors are found to be
shut. The triumphant procession is stopped; but the songs of joy are continued.
A hymn in honour of Christ our King is sung with its joyous chorus ; and
at length the subdeacon strikes the door with the staff of the cross; the
door opens, and the people, preceded by the clergy, enter the church, proclaiming
the praise of Him, who is our resurrection and our life.
This ceremony is intended to represent the entry of Jesus into that Jerusalem
of which the earthly one was but the figure--the Jerusalem of heaven, which
has been opened for us by our Saviour. The sin of our first parents had shut
it against us; but Jesus, the King of glory, opened its gates by His cross,
to which every resistance yields. Let us, then, continue to follow in the
footsteps of the Son of David, for He is also the Son of God, and He invites
us to share His kingdom with Him. Thus, by the procession, which is commemorative
of what happened on this day, the Church raises up our thoughts to the glorious
mystery of the Ascension, whereby heaven was made the close of Jesus' mission
on earth. Alas l the interval between these two triumphs of our Redeemer
are not all days of joy; and no sooner is our procession over, than the Church,
who had laid aside for a moment the weight of her grief, falls back into
sorrow and mourning.
The third part of to-day's service is the offering of the holy Sacrifice.
The portions that are sung by the choir are expressive of the deepest desolation;
and the history of our Lord's Passion, which is now to be read by anticipation,
gives to the rest of the day that character of sacred gloom, which we all
know so well. For the last five or six centuries, the Church has adopted
a special chant for this narrative of the holy Gospel. The historian, or
the evangelist, relates the events in a tone that is at once grave and pathetic;
the words of our Saviour are sung to a solemn yet sweet melody, which strikingly
contrasts with the high dominant of the several other interlocutors and the
Jewish populace. During the singing of the Passion, the faithful should hold
their palms in their hands, and, by this emblem of triumph, protest against
the insults offered to Jesus by His enemies. As we listen to each humiliation
and suffering, all of which were endured out of love for us, let us offer
Him our palm as to our dearest Lord and King. When should we be more adoring,
than when He is most suffering?
These are the leading features of this great day. According to our usual
plan, we will add to the prayers and lessons any instructions that seem to
This Sunday, besides its liturgical and popular appellation of Palm Sunday,
has had several other names. Thus it was called Hosanna Sunday, in allusion
to the acclamation wherewith the Jews greeted Jesus on His entry into Jerusalem.
Our forefathers used also to call it Pascha Floridum, because the feast of
the Pasch (or Easter), which is but eight days off, is to-day in bud, so
to speak, and the faithful could begin from this Sunday to fulfil the precept
of Easter Communion. It was in allusion to this name, that the Spaniards,
having on the Palm Sunday of 1513, discovered the peninsula on the Gulf of
Mexico, called it Florida. We also find the name of Capitilavium given to
this Sunday, because, during those times when it was the custom to defer
till Holy Saturday the baptism of infants horn during the preceding months
(where such a delay entailed no danger), the parents used, on this day, to
wash the heads of these children, out of respect to the holy chrism wherewith
they were to be anointed. Later on, this Sunday was, at least in some churches,
called the Pasch of the competent,, that is, of the catechumens, who were
admitted to Baptism; they assembled to-day in the church, and received a
special instruction on the symbol, which had been given to them in the previous
scrutiny. In the Gothic Church of Spain, the symbol was not given till to-day.
The Greeks call this Sunday Baïphoros, that is, Palm-bearing.