Sunday, March 24, 2013
Traditional Spirituality of Palm Sunday

Today is the Second Sunday of Passiontide (Palm Sunday), the day we commemorate Christ's triumphant ride into Jerusalem. All of this is alluded to in the prophesy of Zacharias 9:9-10 :
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.
The people welcomed and worshipped Our Lord and Master as rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. But, in just one week the people of Jerusalem and the elders would be the ones who would call out: "Crucify Him."

The Gospel account is as follows:
And having said these things, he went before, going up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethania, unto the mount called Olivet, he sent two of his disciples, Saying: Go into the town which is over against you, at your entering into which you shall find the colt of an ass tied, on which no man ever hath sitten: loose him, and bring him hither.
And if any man shall ask you: Why do you loose him? you shall say thus unto him: Because the Lord hath need of his service. And they that were sent, went their way, and found the colt standing, as he had said unto them. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said to them: Why loose you the colt? But they said: Because the Lord hath need of him. And they brought him to Jesus. And casting their garments on the colt, they set Jesus thereon.
And as he went, they spread their clothes underneath in the way. And when he was now coming near the descent of mount Olivet, the whole multitude of his disciples began with joy to praise God with a loud voice, for all the mighty works they had seen, Saying: Blessed be the king who cometh in the name of the Lord, peace in heaven, and glory on high! And some of the Pharisees, from amongst the multitude, said to him: Master, rebuke thy disciples. To whom he said: I say to you, that if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.
And when he drew near, seeing the city, he wept over it, saying: If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace; but now they are hidden from thy eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, and thy enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side, And beat thee flat to the ground, and thy children who are in thee: and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone: because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation (Luke 19:28-44)
Of that entire passage one line truly speaks to the soul: "I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!" How glorious it was! For the King of Glory is riding into Jerusalem on a beast so that He might sacrifice Himself for our redemption. It will be in Jerusalem where He will be condemned to death for our crimes and willingly give up His life. And quietly and peacefully, He bore our punishment on Calvary. The Church Fathers have said that the ass represents the Jewish world, the people of God. But, the colt represents all of the others, the Gentiles, who would also be saved by the coming death of Our Lord. But, the Jews rejected Jesus, God Incarnate, and so the Gentiles would be welcomed as the people of God.

We remember that at the Epiphany, the Magi came to Jesus seeking the King of the Jews. And, here He is in His glory! In not even a week, Pilate would remember this and carve INRI: "The King of the Jews" on the Cross above Our Lord's Head.

So many prophesies were fulfilled on this Sunday of His Passion. In the Annunciation, Gabriel said to Mary: "The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David, His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever." Today Jesus begins His reign upon the Earth and a new Israel will replace the old.

How beautiful is the love of Our Lord! Not only did He die, but He willingly suffered all the humiliation, pain, beatings, mocking, and anxiety leading up to His death. Today we celebrate His triumphant ride into Jerusalem, where He shall complete the Paschal Mystery. But, we are ever mindful that it is because of our sinfulness that the Lamb of God was forced to ride on an ass to the city of His Crucifixion.

For Christ came to die but became victorious over death. He came to suffer but rose again in splendor. We too must follow Him. We must embrace every suffering and pain in our lives. Not only must we accept these sufferings, but we most forgive our attackers. If love is not carved upon our hearts then how can we ever hope to enter Heaven? Jesus Christ was condemned by these men and women who first welcomed Him, and it is only by His forgiveness that we, like them, can hope to enter Heaven. When I pray about Heaven to Our God I do not say "Lord, permit me to enter your Kingdom." I say, "Master, permit me to sit in the farthest corner of your Kingdom that your light still might shine upon me for I am unworthy of anything greater."

We cannot completely understand what must have been the most profound joy for some as He rode in the city. Those following Jesus were even chanting: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the Kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!" This song is sung at every Catholic Mass as we remember the Kingship of the Lord.

For on this day those that were wise saw what the prophets and faithful would have died to witness - our salvation was to be won. For Christ, the Victor over death, was saving His people - the people of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. The entire New Testament leads up to this triumphant day - Christ is saving His people. Our God had come to set us free and institute the New Covenant. How great a day this must have been.

Tridentine Mass celebrated on Palm Sunday in the chapel of Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. April 2009 photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

Today at Mass we will hear the Gospel account of the Passion of Our Lord. And we will also receive the Blessed Palms today. Palms were not just used in this instance of Jesus' triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. The early martyrs are depicted in art with palms - symbolic of their own triumph over death.

Blessing of the Palm Branches:

Oremus. Bless, + we beseech Thee, O Lord, these branches of palm (or olive or other trees): and grant that what Thy people today bodily perform for Thy honor, they may perfect spiritually with the utmost devotion, by gaining the victory over the enemy, and ardently loving every work of mercy. Through our Lord.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

After this the Palm branches are blessed and we enter the Church for Mass.

More information on Palm Sunday can be found at Fish Eaters. For videos and the Traditional Mass Propers for today's Holy Mass, please see my post on the Traditional Mass Propers for the II Second of Passiontide.

The source of the above image of the blessing of the Palms is from St. Patrick's Seminary prior to the Vatican II changes which remove numerous prayers, psalms, and antiphons.


-->O Almighty and everlasting God, Who didst cause our Savior to take upon Him our flesh and to undergo the cross, for an example of humility to be imitated by mankind: mercifully grant that we may deserve to possess not only the lesson of His patience, but also the fellowship of His Resurrection. Through the same our Lord.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

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