Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
Palm Sunday Definition and Summary
Palm Sunday is the Sunday that starts Holy Week. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Prayer: Palm Sunday Prayer
Basic Facts About Palm Sunday
Liturgical Color(s): Red
Type of Holiday: Sunday feast; Holy Day of Obligation
Time of Year: Sixth Sunday of Lent
Duration: One day
Celebrates/Symbolizes: Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem
Alternate Names: Passion Sunday, Fig Sunday, Dominica in Palmis, Kyriake, Heorte Ton Baion, Heorte Baiophoros
Scriptural References: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40
As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’
(Luke 19:36-38, NRSV)
Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion (the official name), the first Sunday of Holy Week within Lent, commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem before His passion. As He entered, the people of Jerusalem proclaimed Him king, chanting "Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
Traditionally, in the Catholic Church, the Palm Sunday service begins with the "blessing of the palms," where the palms used in the procession are blessed. It is during this time that the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem is read. Then a procession into the church building follows. If there cannot be a procession from the outside of the church, a solemn entrance, taking place within the church, may be done. The faithful who attend Mass on Palm Sunday usually receive blessed palms to take home. The palsm are often displayed in homes as reminders of the celebration through the year, and then returned to the church before the following Lent, where they are burned to produce the ashes used on Ash Wednesday.
The hymns and psalmody are related to Christ's office as king. Traditionally the Gloria Laus (i.e. All Glory Laud and Honor), written by Theodulf of Orleans, is sung. Many times the worship service contains a "preaching of the passion," where different events in the last days of Christ are read publicly within the Eucharistic service. In modern Catholic services, the priest and/or a combination of readers read aloud Matthew 26:14-27:66 (Year A), Mark 14:1-15:47 (Year B), or Luke 22:14-23:56 (Year C).
Palm Sunday is also called Fig Sunday, because figs were traditionally eaten that day, memorializing the fig tree cursed by Christ after His entry into Jerusalem. In England Palm Sunday was called Olive or Branch Sunday, Sallow or Willow, Yew or Blossom Sunday, or Sunday of the Willow Boughs, named for the local replacements for the traditional palm branches.
Various customs have developed to celebrate Palm Sunday. In the Slavic countries, the faithful walked through their buildings and fields with the blessed palms, praying and singing ancient hymns. They then laid palm pieces on each plot of ground, in every barn, building, and stable, as a petition was made for protection from weather and disease, and for a blessing upon the produce and property.
The pilgrim Egeria attests to a Palm Sunday procession taking place in the Jerusalem Church at the end of the fourth century. In the Gallican Bobbio Missal of the eighth century we find a reference to blessing of the palms, which symbolize the victory of Christ. The more elaborate celebrations of the Middle Ages have been replaced by simpler services in the Western Church. Many denominations, including Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, celebrate Palm Sunday, in addition to Catholics and Eastern Christians. In most churches, the ashes for Ash Wednesday are derived from burned palms, left over from Palm Sunday liturgies or returned to the church by the faithful.
Worship and Prayer Resources
Prayers for Palm Sunday Service
Prayer for Palm Sunday and Holy Week
Traditions Blessing of the palms, eating figs, placing palm pieces at different locations, singing the Gloria Laus
Symbols The palm branch
"Holy Week" from the Catholic Encyclopedia
Table of Movable Major Catholic Seasons and Holidays
This page written by David Bennett.