Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, or officially, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. On this day the Church recalls the entrance of Christ the Lord into Jerusalem to accomplish his Paschal Mystery. According to the Gospels, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and the celebrating people there laid down their cloaks in front of him, and also laid down small branches of trees. The crowds kept crying out and saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” Hosanna is Hebrew and comes from the word hôshia-nā’ which means “save, rescue” and, liturgically, refers to a cry expressing an appeal for divine help.
Centuries ago, the emperors used to distribute branches of palms among their nobles and commoners. Today, palm fronds and other small branches are given and held during the procession and beginning of Mass. While in the United States, palm fronds are the most common, throughout the world, other types of branches are used. When I lived in Italy, I saw that olive branches are quite common there on Palm Sunday.
At the beginning of the procession before Mass, the priest gives a brief address in which the faithful are invited to participate actively and consciously in the celebration. The priest explains that since the beginning of Lent until now the faithful have prepared their hearts by penance and charitable works. On Palm Sunday, the faithful gather together to herald with the whole Church the beginning of the celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery, that is to say, of his Passion and Resurrection. For it was to accomplish this mystery that he entered his own city of Jerusalem.
Therefore, with all faith and devotion, the priest encourages everyone to commemorate the Lord’s entry into the city for their salvation, following in his footsteps, so that, being made by his grace partakes of the Cross, the faithful may have a share also in his Resurrection and in his life.
We pray to God this weekend that He may, as the Collect for Palm Sunday states, graciously grant that we may heed Jesus’ lesson of patient suffering and so merit a share in his Resurrection.