This coming Sunday we will celebrate Palm Sunday. It is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, and commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified.
Palm Sunday is known as such because the people receive palm branches which they use to participate in the reenactment of Christ's arrival in Jerusalem. In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a young donkey, and to the praise of the townspeople who threw clothes, or possibly palms or small branches, in front of him as a sign of homage. This was a customary practice for the people to cover the streets which were often only dirt to show great respect for a person that his/her shoes or the hoofs of their animal would not get dirt on them.
Palm branches in the ancient world were widely recognized as a symbol of peace and victory, thus from the earliest days of the church their use on the last Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday. The use of a donkey instead of a horse is also highly symbolic, it represents the humble arrival of someone in peace, as opposed to arriving on a horse which would have been used in war.
Palm branches are given to the people before the Palm Sunday Mass begins with a short scripture reading from the gospel of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. The palms are blessed and the Liturgy continues as normal. Because the palms are blessed, they are not be discarded as trash. Instead, they are to be burned, or as my family did when I was growing up, cut up and buried in the fields, or garden.
The colors of the Liturgy on Palm Sunday are red and white, symbolizing the redemption in blood that Christ paid for the world. As we celebrate Palm Sunday the beginning of Holy Week, set this week a part and make it a special time of prayer.
Tuesday of Holy Week is the celebration with our Bishop and the area priests of our Diocese to the Chrism Mass in which the oils used in the Sacraments will be blessed, I invite everyone to this beautiful Liturgy.