Dear OSJ Family,
Today, as we stand a week from our great celebration of Easter, the Church worldwide commemorates “Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord”. In all four Gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem occurs a week before his Resurrection from the dead. With that, today marks the start of “Holy Week” that most sacred week in our liturgical calendar where we prayerfully recall and venerate Christ’s saving Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
Per the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem, where he was to ultimately suffer and die at Calvary, riding on a simple donkey. Hailed as the “Messiah”, the people there laid down their cloaks and waved palm branches before him as a sign of honor and respect. The scriptures record that as he passed by them, they sang a segment of Psalm 118: 26 , which we sing at each celebration of the Mass , Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna (Praise God) in the Highest!
Interestingly, many scripture scholars maintain that the symbolism of Our Lord riding on a donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that a donkey is an animal of peace, versus the horse, which was viewed as an animal of war. A king would have ridden a horse when he was fixed on war and ridden a donkey to symbolize his arrival in peace. Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem would have thus symbolized his entry as the” King of Peace” not as a war-waging king.
Additionally, in Biblical times, the waving of palm branches before a person represented a gesture of honor and reverence. A palm branch was viewed as a symbol of triumph, victory and of eternal life. It is only fitting that here, at the celebration of the Eucharist, we bless and carry our palm branches today to honor our King of Peace, Jesus Christ!
Also, the palm branch later was adapted by our Church not only to represent the entry of our King of Peace but also as a symbol of our Holy Martyrs, those women and men who gave their lives in following Jesus, and their spiritual victory or triumph over death. In the book of Revelation 7:9 the white-clad multitude of saints and martyrs stand before the throne of God holding palm branches crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Finally, the priest’s vestments for today, and the altar frontals, 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.
Today, then, as we consider these great symbols of our holy faith, and we carry to our homes our blessed palms, let us not be afraid to run out and to greet our King of Peace and to cry out with joy:
Blessed is He that comes
in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed Holy Week,
Fr Phil Florio, SJ