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HolyWeek - Notes From Deacon Steve
March 19, 2016
The seven days before Easter Sunday are referred to as Holy Week, or the Passover season. These days are set aside to commemorate the brief life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, or "Passion Sunday," a day on which Christians celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. But in other parts of the world, other names are used to for this special day.
The various names for the Sunday before Easter come from the plants used-palms (Palm Sunday) or branches in general (Branch Sunday; Domingo de Ramos; Dimanche des Rameaux). In most countries of Europe real palms are unobtainable, so in their place people use many other plants: olive branches (in Italy), box, yew, spruce, willows, and pussy willows. In fact, some plants have come to be called palms because of this usage, as the yew in Ireland, the willow in England (palm-willow) and in Germany (Palmkatzchen). From the use of willow branches Palm Sunday was called Willow Sunday in parts of England and Poland, and in Lithuania Verbu Sekmadienis (Willow-twig Sunday). The Greek Church uses the names Sunday of the Palm-carrying and Hosanna Sunday.
According to the Biblical account found in the Gospel of John, people spread out palm branches before Jesus as he entered the city on a donkey, rejoicing in His presence and crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"
By waving palm branches, which symbolized goodness and victory, and using them to cover Jesus' path as He rode into the city on a donkey, the crowd indicated that the Son of God was revered and respected on the level of royalty.
The celebration of Palm Sunday originated in the churches of Jerusalem sometime during the third or fourth century, and had spread as far as Constantinople by the fifth century. The celebration was adopted by the Western Church in the eighth century, and at that time received the name "Dominica in Palmis," or "Palm Sunday."
Today, many Christian churches observe Palm Sunday by distributing palm, olive, or willow branches to worshipers, who then carry the branches in a procession either inside or outside the church. In some parts of the world, flowers are strewn about into the church sanctuary during the reading of the Gospel account Jesus' triumphal entry.
Other Palm Sunday ceremonies and traditions, particularly those which take place in the Catholic Church, consist of the blessing of the palms, a procession and a mass wherein the Passion and the Benediction are sung. For Christians, Christ’s triumphal entry is significant because it symbolizes the beginning of the greatest triumph the world had ever experienced: the ultimate defeat of sin and death. My hope for you during this Holy Week is that you take this opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for our salvation. I also hope that this is a week where you can focus on strengthening your relationship with God.