The pilgrim Egeria describes an observance of Palm Sunday in the late fourth century. Christians gathered on the other side of the Mount of Olives, in a place called Bethphage, where they read the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. They then walked to the Mount of Olives and down the hillside into the city. Egeria tells us that these early Christians waved palm or olive tree branches, sang psalms (especially 118), and shouted the antiphon “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Our observance of Palm Sunday, over 2000 years later, follows the same pattern. Beginning with the liturgy of the Palms, we will have a procession through the Church and re-enact the story as a community, waving our own palm branches, singing a hymn of praise and joy. During our Palm Sunday liturgy, we will listen to the Passion and will hear not only of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem but his betrayal, trial, crucifixion and death. And so, we get a taste of the full narrative of Holy Week, a kind of preview. Yes, Holy Week is upon us and there’s much to experience as we follow Jesus’ last week.
As we move through Holy Week, we will commemorate Maundy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper, Good Friday, Christ crucified, the still silence of Holy Saturday, and the joyful celebration of Easter Sunday. The Holy Week liturgies are not just to remember, but to enter into these events so we may live through and experience them anew. Our honoring these most holy days together is another source of our connection as a community.
We invite you all to be engaged with us this week, to enter into the narrative, to feel, to experience, and to emerge renewed with Easter joy. Come and see, come and hear, come and be renewed.