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Palm Sunday

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For the Kurt Vonnegut book, see Palm Sunday (book).

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey is depicted on an early 1900’s Bible card illustration. Traditionally, entering the city on a donkey symbolizes arrival in peace, rather than as a war-waging king arriving on a horse.[1][2]

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. (Mark 11:1–11, Matthew 21:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, and John 12:12–19).

In many Christian churches, Palm Sunday is marked by the distribution of palm leaves (often tied into crosses) to the assembled worshipers. 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, 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.

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[edit] Biblical basis and symbolism

Main article: Triumphal entry into Jerusalem

In the accounts of the four canonical Gospels, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem takes place about a week before his Resurrection.[3][4][5][6][7]

Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, fresco in the Parish Church Zirl, Austria

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 ….[2][3][4][5]

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.[1] Therefore, 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. Therefore, Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem symbolized his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king.[1][2]

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 more specifically mentions palm fronds. The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory in Jewish tradition, and is treated in other parts of the Bible as such (e.g., Leviticus 23:40 and Revelation 7:9). Because of this, the scene of the crowd greeting Jesus by waving palms and carpeting his path with them and their cloaks has become symbolic and important.

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.[8]

[edit] Observance in the liturgy

Dates for Palm Sunday
2010–2022
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

[edit] Western Christianity

On Palm Sunday, in the 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 procession also takes place. It may include the normal liturgical procession of clergy and acolytes, the parish choir, or the entire congregation. In the Roman 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 sacramentals. 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.[citation needed]

[edit] Eastern and Oriental Christianity

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.

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 Death,
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He that cometh
in the Name of the Lord.

Palm Sunday procession, Moscow, with Tsar Alexei Michaelovich (painting by Vyacheslav Gregorievich Schwarz, 1865)

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.

[edit] Customs

It is customary in many churches for the worshippers to receive fresh palm leaves on Palm Sunday. In parts of the world where this has historically been impractical, substitute traditions have arisen.

[edit] Belgium

In Hoegaarden one of the last remaining Palm Sunday processions take place every year. A fellowship of Twelve Apostles carries a wooden statue of Christ around the town, while children go door to door offering the palms (box) for coins.

[edit] Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, Palm Sunday is known as Tsvetnitsa or Vrabnitsa. People with flower-related names, (for example Tzviatko, Margarita,Ralitza, Lilia, Violeta, Yavor, Zdravko, Zjumbjul, Nevena, Temenuzhka,Rosa etc.) celebrate this day as their "name day".

[edit] Finland

In Finland, it is popular for children to dress up as Easter witches and go door to door in neighborhoods for coins and candy. It is an old Karelian custom called Virpominen.

[edit] India

Flowers (in this instance marigolds) strewn about the sanctuary in an Oriental Orthodox church in Mumbai, India on Palm Sunday

In the South Indian state of Kerala, (and in Indian Orthodox,Church of South India(CSI), Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and Syrian Orthodox Church (Jacobite) congregations elsewhere in India and throughout the West), flowers are strewn about into the sanctuary on Palm Sunday during the reading of the Gospel at the words uttered by the crowd welcoming Jesus, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who is come and is to come in the name of the Lord God." These words are read to the congregation thrice. The congregation then repeats, "Hosanna!" and the flowers are scattered. This echoes pre-Christian Hindu celebrations in which flowers are strewn on festive occasions; however, this also echoes the honour shown to Jesus upon his entry into Jerusalem. Indian Orthodoxy traces its roots to the arrival in India of St. Thomas the Apostle in AD 52 (according to tradition) and his evangelism among both the Brahmans of the Malabar Coast and the ancient Jewish community there. Its rites and ceremonies are both Hindu and Jewish, as well as Levantine Christian, in origin. In Syro-Malabar Catholic Church’s palm leaves are blessed during Palm Sunday ceremony and a Procession will take place holding the palms.[9]

[edit] Latvia

In Latvia, Palm Sunday is called "Pussy Willow Sunday", and pussy willows – symbolizing new life – are blessed and distributed to the faithful.[10] Children are often woken that morning with ritualistic swats of a willow branch.

[edit] Malta

All the parishes of Malta and Gozo on Palm Sunday (in Maltese Ħadd il-Palm) bless the palm leaves and the olive leaves. Those parishes that have the statues of Good Friday bless the olive tree they put on the statues of "Jesus prays in the Olive Garden" (Ġesù fl-Ort) and the "Betrayal of Judas" (il-Bewsa ta’ Ġuda). Also, many people take a small branch of olive to their homes because it is a sacramental.

[edit] The Levant

In Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, Palm Sunday – known as Shaa’nini in Arabic- is perhaps the best-attended service in the Christian Calendar, among the Orthodox, Catholic (Latin rite and Eastern rite), Maronite and Anglican Churches, perhaps because it is notably a family occasion. On this day, children attend church with branches from olive and palm trees. Also, there will be carefully woven crosses and other symbols made from palm fronds and roses. There will normally be a procession at the beginning of the service and at some point, the priest will take an olive branch and splash holy water on the faithful.

[edit] Netherlands

In the Saxon regions of the Netherlands, crosses are decorated with candy and bread, made in the form of a rooster. In the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, a great procession with oil lamps is held the night before Palm Sunday in honour of the Sorrowful Mother of Warfhuizen.

[edit] Philippines

Main article: Holy Week in the Philippines

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.

[edit] Poland

Many Polish towns and villages (the best known are Lipnica Murowana in Małopolska and Łyse in Podlasie) organize artificial palm competitions. The biggest of those reach above 30 meters in length; for example, the highest palm in 2008 was 33.39 meters high.

[edit] Romania

In Romania, Palm Sunday is known as Duminica Floriilor.

[edit] Spain

See also: Holy Week in Spain

In Elche, Spain, the location of the biggest palm grove in Europe, there is a tradition of tying and covering palm leaves to whiten them away from sunlight and then drying and braiding them in elaborate shapes.

A Spanish rhyming proverb states: Domingo de Ramos, quien no estrena algo, se le caen las manos ("On Palm Sunday, the hands drop off of those who fail to wear something new").

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b c Matthew 19–28 by William David Davies, Dale C. Allison 2004 ISBN 0567083756 page 120
  2. ^ a b c John 12–21 by John MacArthur 2008 ISBN 9780802408242 pages 17–18
  3. ^ a b The people’s New Testament commentary by M. Eugene Boring, Fred B. Craddock 2004 ISBN 0664227546 pages 256–258
  4. ^ a b The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew-Luke, Volume 1 by Craig A. Evans 2003 ISBN 0781438683 page 381-395
  5. ^ a b The Synoptics: Matthew, Mark, Luke by Ján Majerník, Joseph Ponessa, Laurie Watson Manhardt 2005 ISBN 1931018316 pages 133–134
  6. ^ The Bible knowledge background commentary: John’s Gospel, Hebrews-Revelation by Craig A. Evans ISBN 0781442281 pages 114–118
  7. ^ Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44 John 12:12–19
  8. ^ Frood & Graves p.10
  9. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-kerala/article1705828.ece
  10. ^ http://www.mirabilis.ca/archives/002788.html

[edit] References

  • Frood, J.D. & Graves, M.A.R. Seasons and Ceremonies: Tudor-Stuart England. Elizabethan Promotions, 1992

[edit] External links

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