Palm Sunday

Liturgy We Live by Dr. Gil Haas

On Palm Sunday, blessed palms are carried in procession representing Jesusʼ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Such processions began in Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives (381-384 A.D.) but became widespread by the 12th century. In the MIddle Ages, a carved figure on a wooden ass or even the Blessed Sacrament was processed. The 1549 Prayer Book labels the day “The Sunday next before Easter” without mentioning palms. The 1928 BCP added, “Commonly called Palm Sunday”. The current 1979 BCP labels the day “The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday,” and suggests the congregation “gather at a place apart from the church, so that all may go into the church in procession.” Two lessons associated with a reverence occur this Sunday: in the epistle, “ that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend” (the only epistle associated with a reverence [usually a genuflection]) and later in the gospel, “Having said this, he breathed his last” (one of three gospel lessons associated with a reverence or genuflection - the other two occur at Christmas [“...and the word became flesh and lived among us”] and Epiphany [“...and they knelt down and paid him homage.”]).

If Holy Week celebrates the last week of Jesusʼ life on appropriate days, the inclusion of the Passion narrative on Palm Sunday is misconceived because these events occur later in the week. Anglican rubrics give the Palm Sunday gospel as an alternative to the Passion narrative.