Tag Archives: palm sunday

Christian Traditions 022: Palm Sunday

Von Trapp Follow-Along: As stated in the previous blog post, Maria discusses Passiontide at some length in her book under “Passiontide.” She also writes extensively about Palm Sunday specifically.

INTRODUCTION

Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, during which we commemorate the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. Palm Sunday itself commemorates Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

palm branchSYMBOL

The symbol of Palm Sunday is, obviously, a palm branch. Traditionally, the palm branch is a symbol of joy and victory—in this case, it symbolizes victory over the flesh and the world or, more specifically, Christ’s coming victory over sin and death.

29 March 2015WHEN IS IT?

As discussed previously, Palm Sunday is the second Sunday of Passiontide, the last Sunday before Easter Sunday. It may occur as early as 15 March or as late as 18 April. This year, Palm Sunday falls on 29 March.

Palm Sunday is sometimes unofficially (in some places, officially) referred to as “Passion Sunday.” Prior to the 1969 Catholic reforms, the term “Passion Sunday” was only applied to the first Sunday of Passiontide in Catholic and non-Catholic churches. In this and all other posts on the topic, when I talk about “Passion Sunday,” I am referring to the first Sunday of Passiontide, and when I talk about “Palm Sunday,” I am referring to the second Sunday of Passiontide.

Palm SundayWHAT IS IT?

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is recorded in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19. In brief, the story is that Jesus came to Jerusalem before the Sabbath and sent His disciples into the city to obtain a donkey colt. Then, in fulfillment of prophecy, He rode the donkey into Jerusalem while the crowd threw their garments and palm branches on the ground before Him and waved palm branches, crying “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is He (or, the King of Israel) Who comes in the Name of the Lord!”

As discussed in a previous post, the Bible tells us that Jesus traveled to Bethany six days before His death and stayed with His friends there (Lazarus, Mary, and Martha), and that He traveled from Bethany to Jerusalem the following day (John 12:1, 12-15). As discussed in a previous post, Jesus died on a Wednesday afternoon, so that means He traveled to Bethany on Thursday and made His Triumphal Entry on the back of a donkey on Friday (in the evening of which, Sabbath would have begun). Therefore, celebrating His Triumphal Entry as having occurred on a Sunday is inaccurate, but probably not important from a theological perspective since, as I will discuss in a future blog post, it matters more that we obey God in faith (Romans 4:1-22, Galatians 3:6-9) than that we commemorate something on the exact day on which it may have occurred, especially given that there is no Scriptural command to observe Palm Sunday.

As discussed previously, Passiontide has been observed since the 200s AD, but the first recorded case of Palm Sunday being openly observed was after Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which reversed the declaration of Christianity as illegal, in 313 AD. The Christians in Jerusalem stood on the spot where the Triumphal Entry had occurred and read Zechariah 9:9 (“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion: shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”), then re-enacted the Triumphal Entry. They spread their garments on the ground, crying “Blessed be the King Who cometh in the Name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38; also Psalm 118:26) (Coincidentally, the crowd also cried “Hosanna” [Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9-10; John 12:13], which means “save now,” and is also found in Psalm 118, in verse 25.) The bishop, mounted on a donkey, rode up to the church on the Mount of Olives while the crowd surrounded him, carrying palms and singing hymns and joyful anthems. This practice spread to the Church at Rome, where the ceremony was preceded by a reading from the Bible describing the flight into Egypt because of Herod’s edict. This they did to remind “Christ’s people that Christ, the new Moses, in giving them the real manna, is delivering them out of the Egypt of sin and nourishing them in the Eucharist.” (per Maria Von Trapp)

We don’t know exactly when Christians began to annually observe Palm Sunday, only that it was observed at least sporadically since the 300s AD and that Christians began to observe it annually sometime between 600 and 1000 AD. In the 800s AD, the Church began to bless the palm branches prior to the Palm Sunday procession. In medieval times, the people met at a chapel or shrine outside of town, the bishop blessed the palms, and then the bishop and the people began their procession to the cathedral, often with the bishop riding on a donkey, with a crucifix carried ahead of them, or with the king carrying the Blessed Sacrament. Blessed palm leaves (or pussy willow, evergreen, olive, box elder, spruce, etc., depending on the area) are brought home and placed in every field or yard of the home, and sometimes in various places within the home (for example, Maria Von Trapp describes putting sprigs behind the pictures on the wall); this is thought to protect the property against evil spirits and damage from weather events. They may also be buried to preserve crops or used to decorate graves. Other blessed palm leaves are burned and their ashes preserved for the following year’s Ash Wednesday.

In some churches today, Palm Sunday has two foci: the Lord’s Triumphal Entry, and the Lord’s Passion. His Passion is also specifically observed later in Holy Week, regardless of whether it is observed on Palm Sunday. (Of course, this is only true if the church has services on those days.)

calendarLOOKING AHEAD

Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week. Next, I will publish a post about all of Holy Week minus the Easter Triduum. The Easter Triduum, which begins the evening of Maundy Thursday and ends the evening of Easter Sunday, deserves special attention and a blog post of its own. Easter Sunday will also have its own blog post.

STANDARD ACTIVITIES

There are many traditional practices for this day.

  • Readings. The readings for today are:
    • Isaiah 50:4-9a
    • Psalm 31:9-16
    • Philippians 2:5-11
    • Mark 14:1-15:47
  • Procession. Take part in a Palm Sunday procession, either in a church or in your own home or small group.
  • Décor. Save the palm branches and place them around your house.
  • Palm Branches. Traditionally, palm branches were placed or buried in all of the fields or yards of the home, and sprigs were often placed in various rooms of the house. This was thought to ward off evil spirits and protect from weather damage. Regardless of whether you believe in that, it might be fun and harmless to place the palm branches accordingly.

KNIT AND CROCHET ACTIVITIES

For today, we will craft palm branches.

  • Knitting Patterns. “Palm Tree” by Sunshine Knit Designs (here)
  • Crochet Patterns. “Palm Tree” by Amanda B (here) OR “Palm tree smoothie hat” by beffdizzle (here)

 

じゃあまたね!

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Christian Traditions 019: Passiontide

(Author’s Note: Hi, readers! Sorry, I’m falling behind. I have a tendency to get interested in something and research the heck out of it to the point of ignoring all my other projects, and that’s what I’ve been doing recently. So Passiontide actually started yesterday [Sunday, 22 March], but I’m just now getting around to posting this. Sorry for the delay!)

Von Trapp Follow-Along. Maria discusses several of the most important aspects of Passiontide under “PASSIONTIDE” in her book.

INTRODUCTION

Passiontide, the final two weeks of Lent, step up the preparations for Easter. Whereas Lent focuses on Jesus’ life and ministry, Passiontide focuses on Jesus’ last week prior to His crucifixion and more specifically on His sufferings (“passion”).

redCOLOR

Red. In the Catholic Church, which has officially abolished any commemoration of Passiontide, the color for this time period is still the Lenten violet. However, in some Catholic and Anglican churches, crimson is used in décor and vestments for the entirety of Passiontide or for the latter half of Passiontide.

veiled crossSYMBOL

The Veiled Cross. As described previously, crucifixes were once adorned not with the body of Christ but with jewels and intricate carvings. During Lent, they were veiled so as to prevent parishioners from being distracted from their penance and observance of Lent by the splendor of the crucifixes. If not veiled during Lent, they are veiled during Passiontide. The color of the veil varies from violet to crimson to black depending largely on locale and denomination. The veil is gauzy so that the outlines of the cross can still be seen, and so the cross remains as a reminder of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, but the shininess of the metal is dulled and the intricate details obscured so that the cross does not detract from penance and observance of the Lent or Passiontide period.

22 March to 4 April 2015WHEN IS IT?

Passiontide encompasses the last two weeks before Easter and so includes Passion Week (which includes Passion Sunday and Friday of Sorrows) and Holy Week (which includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday).

Because Passiontide starts two weeks before and ends the day before Easter Sunday, it may start as early as 8 March and end as late as 24 April. This year, Passiontide runs from 22 March to 4 April.

Palm SundayWHAT IS IT?

Passiontide has been observed since the 200s AD (therefore older than observance of Lent but younger than observance of Easter). Although Palm Sunday was first openly observed the year Emperor Constantine declared the practice of Christianity legal via the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, Christians only began annually observing it between 600 and 1000 AD. Passion Sunday has been specifically observed as such since the 800s AD.

“The Passion” or “The Passion of Christ” refers to the final brief period of Jesus’ life (beginning with His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem approximately one week prior to His death) and specifically His sufferings in and related to His crucifixion, hence the name “Passiontide” for this commemorative period.

Passiontide includes two weeks: Passion Week and Holy Week. The first commemorates His last year of ministry while the second commemorates His last week of life (see Footnote 1). Maria Von Trapp explains, “The purpose of Passiontide is to call to our memory the persecutions of which Our Lord was the object during His public life and especially toward the end. If Septuagesima season [Pre-Lent Season] acts as a remote preparation for Easter, and Lent the proximate one, the last two weeks of Passiontide are the immediate preparation.” (Source)

During Passiontide, the crucifixes are covered with violet cloth (crimson in some churches) if this was not done on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent (see my post on that topic). In some churches, the crucifixes are re-veiled with black cloth on Maundy Thursday. The Gloria Patri is not prayed and Alleluias are not sung during these two weeks of mourning.

Passion Week. The first week of Passiontide, this week commemorates Jesus’ last year on earth. It includes Passion Sunday and Friday of Sorrows. Passion Sunday will have its own individual blog post. However, Friday of Sorrows will not; it commemorates the sorrow Jesus’ suffering and death caused His mother Mary, and was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 as a duplicate of the feast on 15 September, which is known as The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As mentioned multiple times previously, I am writing this series as an Evangelical’s study of Christian traditions, and so venerations of Mary are not appropriate to the series. I hope in the future to study some or all of the commemorations of Mary, but at this time I am focusing on those an Evangelical can celebrate. Although I don’t see anything wrong with considering or even commemorating the sorrow a mother feels or felt over the death of her child, there’s just too much to cover in this blog series at this time, so I’m generally focusing on commemorations that do not focus solely on Mary.

Holy Week. The second week of Passiontide, this week commemorates Jesus’ last week of life on earth (again, see Footnote 1). Some consider Holy Week to start with Palm Sunday, while others consider it to start on Holy Monday, leaving Palm Sunday, which commemorates His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, awkwardly sandwiched between Passion Week and Holy Week. (Some calendars consider Holy Week to start with the Friday before Good Friday). For simplicity, I consider Holy Week to start with Palm Sunday. Some calendars also recognize a separate tiny liturgical season called the Easter Triduum, which includes the evening of Maundy Thursday and all of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, in which case, Holy Week ends on Maundy Thursday. Because there is so much to discuss in the Easter Triduum, I’ve decided for bloggy reasons to use this separation and therefore will consider Holy Week to begin on Palm Sunday and end on Maundy Thursday. Palm Sunday will have its own individual blog post, but the rest of Holy Week (Holy Monday through Maundy Thursday) will be lumped together in one post and the Easter Triduum will be considered separate from Passiontide and be discussed in another individual post.

calendarCALENDAR OF EVENTS

The calendar for Passiontide this year looks like this:

  • 3/22-3/28: Passion Week
    • 3/22: Passion Sunday
  • 3/25: The Annunciation (immoveable feast)
  • 3/29-4/2: Holy Week
    • 3/29: Palm Sunday
    • 3/30: Holy Monday
    • 3/31: Holy Tuesday
    • 4/1: Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday
    • 4/2: Maundy Thursday
    • 4/3: Good Friday
    • 4/4: Holy Saturday

じゃあまたね!

FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: His Last Week. Holy Week is often described as commemorating Jesus’ last week of life on earth. This simplification may be a bit of misspeak, as many simplifications are. In reality, if using the consideration of Holy Week as beginning on Palm Sunday and ending on Holy Saturday, it encompasses His death and burial, including three days and nights in the tomb (which I will discuss in more detail on the appropriate days), so it does not commemorate a full week of life. Furthermore, Jesus resurrected and lived another 40 days on earth before ascending into heaven, so the final week before His resurrection, and even the final week before His death (which would correctly run from Thursday to Thursday rather than from Sunday to Saturday) cannot be correctly understood as His last week of life on earth. Therefore, this reference to Holy Week as His last week of life on earth should be understood for what it is—a simplification which, like other simplifications, is not completely correct—and viewed as a symbolic memorial based on some history rather than as a 100% historically-accurate commemoration. Of course, this is true of virtually all commemorations of any sort, but I just wanted to clear up any misconceptions gained from the commemoration.