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Christ riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday

— when Jesus began His journey towards the cross

“Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” (Zechariah 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11)

Our Lord Jesus Christ had become somewhat of a celebrity among people who had heard of the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead, and they wanted to see Him and treat Him like a king. Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1–9), when palm branches were placed in His path by an adoring crowd. The air throughout Jerusalem echoed with “Hosanna!”

Just four days later, He was arrested on Holy Thursday and crucified on Good Friday. Palm Sunday thus marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent.

 

Why “Palm” Sunday?

Palm Sunday ParadePalm branches have been used in Christianity as a sign of victory over the flesh and the world; hence especially associated with the memory of the martyrs. The palms are blessed on Palm Sunday and are used in the procession of the day, then taken home by the faithful and used as a sacramental. They were preserved in prominent places in the house, in the barns, and in the fields, and thrown into the fire during storms.

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).

In the Roman Catholic Church, palm fronds (or in colder climates some kind of substitutes) are blessed with an aspergillum outside the church building in an event called the "blessing of palms" if using palm leaves (or in cold climates in the narthex when Easter falls early in the year). A solemn procession also takes place, and often includes the entire congregation.

 

Palm Sunday Festivities

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.

The principal ceremonies of the day are the benediction of the palms, the procession, the Mass, and during it the singing or reading of the Passion. In the five prayers which are prayed over the palms the priest asks God to bless the branches of palm or olive:

  • that they may be a protection to all places into which they may be brought;
  • that the right hand of God may expel all adversity, bless and protect all who dwell in them, who have been redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ;
  • makes reference to the dove bringing back the olive branch to Noah's ark and to the multitude greeting Our Lord;
  • say that the branches of palms signify victory over the prince of death and...
  • that the olive signifies the advent of spiritual unction through Christ.

The officiating clergyman sprinkles the palms with holy water, incenses them, and, after another prayer, distributes them. During the distribution the choir sings an appropriate hymn.

Then follows the procession, of the clergy and of the people, carrying the blessed palms, the choir in the meantime singing. All process out of the church, or, in inclement weather, around the inside of the church. On the return of the procession the choir leads a hymn, at the end of which Mass is celebrated, the principal feature of which is the singing or reading of the Passion according to St. Matthew, during which all hold the palms in their hands.

These ceremonies have remained principally intact since medieval times, when, following the Roman custom, a procession composed of the clergy and laity carrying palms moved from a chapel or shrine outside the town, where the palms were blessed, to the cathedral or main church. Our Lord was represented in the procession, either by the Blessed Sacrament or by a crucifix, adorned with flowers, carried by the celebrant of the Mass. Later, in the Middle Ages, a quaint custom arose of drawing a wooden statue of Christ sitting on a donkey (the whole image on wheels) in the center of the procession. These statues (Palm Donkey; Palmesel) are still seen in museums of many European cities.

The symbolism of the donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, unlike the horse which is the animal of war.  A king would have ridden a horse when he was bent on war and ridden a donkey to symbolize his arrival in peace. Jesus' entry to Jerusalem would have thus symbolized his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king.

 

Don’t throw away those palms!

Palms made into small crossesThe palms are saved in many churches to be burned on Shrove Tuesday the following year to make ashes used in Ash Wednesday services. The Catholic Church considers the blessed palms to be sacramentals. Having been blessed by a priest (sacramental) they carry a certain spiritual significance and power. A sacramental is a material object, thing or action set apart or blessed to manifest the respect due to the Sacraments and so to excite pious thoughts and to increase devotion to God when used with devotion.

After celebrating Palm Sunday, parishioners return home with several palms and are often unsure how to properly display or otherwise hold onto them. Because these palms are sacramentals, they cannot be thrown away. They must either be burned or buried to be disposed of correctly.

 


 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 16, 2020

Today God invites you to do good; do it therefore today. Tom...

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July 16

 

Today God invites you to do good;
do it therefore today.
Tomorrow you may not have time, or
God may no longer call you to do it.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Elias saw the cloud as a symbol of the Virgin mentioned in t...

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel can be traced back to the hermits living on Mount Carmel in Israel during the Old Testament. This ancient community prayed for the advent of the Virgin-Mother through whom salvation was promised to mankind. In Hebrew, “Carmel” means “garden”. In ancient times this mountain was celebrated for its lush, verdant, and flowery beauty.

It was also on Mount Carmel that the Prophet Elijah prayed to God for rain during a terrible drought afflicting Israel for its sins and idolatry of Baal. The first sign that his prayer was answered was a tiny cloud that appeared in the sky out over the Mediterranean, the precursor of a great rainfall.

Elias saw the cloud as a symbol of the Virgin mentioned in the prophecies of Isaiah (7:14). The hermits took after his example and prayed likewise for the advent of the much-awaited Virgin who would become the mother of the Messiah. Praying thus became their spiritual mission.

Theologians see in that little cloud a figure of Mary, bringing salvation in the seventh age of the world. As the clouds arise out of the sea without the weight and the salinity of the waters, so has Mary arisen out of the human race without its stains.

In the twelfth century, St. Berthold, a Frenchman, pilgrim or crusader, came to Mount Carmel seeking to visit Elijah’s cave, and ended by founding a community imbued with the Marian spirit of the holy prophet and the hermits of old.

St. Brocard, successor of St. Berthold, set their way of life to a Rule, which was approved by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. From the time of St. Brocard, these monks were known as the “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel cannot be mentioned without also mentioning her brown scapular. On July 16, 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, an English Carmelite monk, and then General of the Carmelite Order. On one arm she held the Child Jesus and on the other a brown garment called a scapular, to be draped over the front and back of a person. As she showed him this garment she said, “This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall be saved.”

This privilege is extended to lay persons who, wishing to participate in this promise, choose to be enrolled in a small version of the scapular by an officiating priest or deacon.

This practice must not be understood superstitiously or “magically”, but in light of Catholic teaching that perseverance in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are required for salvation.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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