Palm Sunday

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Palm Sunday
Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger

Early in the morning of this day, Jesus sets out for Jerusalem, leaving Mary His Mother, and the two sisters Martha and Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus, at Bethania. The Mother of Sorrows trembles at seeing her Son thus expose Himself to danger, for His enemies are bent upon His destruction; but it is not death, it is triumph, that Jesus is to receive today in Jerusalem. The Messias, before being nailed to the cross, is to be proclaimed King by the people of the great city; the little children are to make her streets echo with their Hosannas to the Son of David; and this, in the presence of the soldiers of Rome's emperor, and of the high priests and Pharisees: the first standing under the banner of their eagles; the second, dumb with rage.

The prophet Zachary had foretold this triumph which the Son of Man was to receive a few days before His Passion, and which had been prepared for Him from all eternity. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion! Shout with joy, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy King will come to thee; the Just and the Savior. He is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass" (Zach. 9, 9). Jesus, knowing that the hour has come for the fulfillment of this prophecy, singles out two from the rest of His disciples, and bids them lead to Him an ass and her colt, which they would find not far off. He has reached Bethphage, on Mount Olivet. The two disciples lose no time in executing the order given them by their Divine Master; and the ass and the colt are soon brought to the place where He stands.

The holy Fathers have explained to us the mystery of these two animals. The ass represents the Jewish people, which had been long under the yoke of the Law; the colt, upon which, as the evangelist says, no man hath yet sat, is a figure of the Gentile world, which no one had ever yet brought into subjection. The future of these two peoples is to be decided a few days hence: the Jews will be rejected, for having refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias; the Gentiles will take their place, to be adopted as God's people, and become docile and faithful.

The disciples spread their garments upon the colt; and our Savior, that the prophetic figure might be fulfilled, sits upon it, and advances towards Jerusalem. As soon as it is known that Jesus is near the city, the Holy Ghost works in the hearts of those Jews, who have come from all parts to celebrate the feast of the Passover. They go out to meet Our Lord, holding palm branches in their hands, and loudly proclaiming Him to be King. They that have accompanied Jesus from Bethania, join the enthusiastic crowd. Whilst some spread their garments on the way, others cut down boughs from the palm trees, and strew them along the road. Hosanna is the triumphant cry, proclaiming to the whole city that Jesus, the Son of David, has made His entrance as her King.

Thus did God, in His power over men's hearts, procure a triumph for His Son, and in the very city which, a few days later, was to clamor for His Blood. This day was one of glory to our Jesus, and Holy Church would have us renew, each year, the memory of this triumph of the God-Man. Jesus begins His reign upon the earth this very day; and though the first Israel is soon to disclaim His rule, a new Israel, formed from the faithful few of the old, shall rise up in every nation of the earth, and become the kingdom of Christ, a kingdom such as no mere earthly monarch ever coveted in his wildest fancies of ambition.

This is the glorious mystery which ushers in the great Week, the Week of dolors. Holy Church would have us give this momentary consolation to our heart, and hail our Jesus as our King. She has so arranged the service of today, that it should express both joy and sorrow; joy, by uniting herself with the loyal hosannas of the city of David; and sorrow, by compassionating the Passion of Her Divine Spouse. The whole function is divided into three parts.

The first is the blessing of the palms, which imparts a virtue to these branches and elevates them to the supernatural order. Thus they become a means for the sanctification of our souls and the protection of our persons and dwellings. The faithful should hold these palms in their hands during the procession, and keep them in their homes as an outward expression of their faith, and as a pledge of God's watchful love.

A word on the antiquity of this ceremony will not be superfluous. It began very early in the east. It is probable that, as far as Jerusalem itself is concerned, the custom was established immediately after the ages of persecution. St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem in the 4th century, tells us that the palm tree, from which the people cut branches to meet the Savior, was still to be seen in the valley of Cedron. In the west, we find first mention of this ceremony in the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, in the late 6th century.

The second of today's ceremonies is the procession, which follows the chanting of the Gospel narrative. It represents Our Savior's journey to Jerusalem, and His entry into the city. To make it more expressive, the branches that have just been blessed are held in the hands of the faithful. With the Jews, to hold a branch in one's hand was a sign of joy. The Divine Law had sanctioned this practice, as we read in the following passage from Leviticus, where God commands His people to keep the feast of tabernacles: And you shall take to you, on the first day, the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm trees, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God (Lev. 23, 40). It was, therefore, to testify their delight at seeing Jesus enter within their walls, that the inhabitants, even the little children, of Jerusalem, went forth to meet Him with palms in their hands. Let us, also, go before our King, singing our hosannas to Him as the conqueror of death, and the liberator of His people.

Palm Sunday Procession with the Blessed SacramentDuring the Middle Ages, it was the custom, in many churches, to carry the book of the Holy Gospels in this procession. The Gospel contains the words of Jesus Christ, and was considered to represent Him. The procession halted at an appointed place: the deacon then opened the sacred volume and sang from it the passage which describes Our Lord's entry into Jerusalem. In England and Normandy, as far back as the 11th century, the Blessed Sacrament was carried in procession. The heresy of Berengarius, against the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, had been broached about that time; and the tribute of triumphant joy here shown to the Sacred Host was distant preparation for the feast and procession of Corpus Christi, which were to be instituted at a later period.

A touching ceremony was also practiced in Jerusalem during today's procession: the whole community of Franciscans (to whose custody the Holy Places were entrusted) went in the morning to Bethphage. There, the Father Guardian of the Holy Land, being vested in pontifical robes, mounted upon an ass, on which garments were laid. Accompanied by the friars and the Catholics of Jerusalem, all holding palms in their hands, he entered the city, and alighted at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Mass was celebrated with all possible solemnity.

From these different usages, we learn that, in today's procession, the Church wishes us to honor Jesus Christ as though He were really among us, and were receiving the humble tribute of our loyalty. Let us lovingly go forth to meet this our King, our Savior, who comes to visit the daughter of Sion, as the prophet has just told us. He is in our midst; it is to Him that we pay honor with our palms: let us give Him our hearts too. He comes that He may be our King; let us welcome Him as such, and fervently cry out to Him: Hosanna to the Son of David!

The third part of today's service is the offering of the Holy Sacrifice. The portions that are sung by the choir are expressive of the deepest desolation; and the history of Our Lord's Passion, which is now to be read by anticipation, gives to the rest of the day that character which we all know so well. For the last six or seven centuries, the Church has adopted a special chant for this narrative of the Holy Gospel. The historian (Chronista) relates the events in a tone that is at once grave and pathetic; the words of Our Savior (Christus) are sung to a solemn yet sweet melody, which strikingly contrasts with the high dominant of the several other interlocutors and the Jewish populace (Synagoga).

This Sunday, besides its liturgical and popular appellation of Palm Sunday, has several other names. Thus it was called Hosanna Sunday, in allusion to the acclamation wherewith the Jews greeted Jesus on His entry into Jerusalem. Our forefathers used also to call it Pascha Floridum, because the Feast of the Pasch (or Easter), which is but eight days off, is today in bud, so to speak. It was in allusion to this name, that the Spaniards, having on the Palm Sunday of 1513, discovered the peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico, called it Florida.


Salve Regina
 
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Epistle

Phil. 2 : 5-11
Brethren,[5] For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:[6] Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. [8] He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. [9] For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: [10] That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth:[11] And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.


Gospel
Matthew 26 : 1-75
[1] And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended all these words, he said to his disciples: [2] You know that after two days shall be the pasch, and the son of man shall be delivered up to be crucified: [3] Then were gathered together the chief priests and ancients of the people into the court of the high priest, who was called Caiphas: [4] And they consulted together, that by subtilty they might apprehend Jesus, and put him to death. [5] But they said: Not on the festival day, lest perhaps there should be a tumult among the people.

[6] And when Jesus was in Bethania, in the house of Simon the leper, [7] There came to him a woman having an alabaster box of precious ointment, and poured it on his head as he was at table. [8] And the disciples seeing it, had indignation, saying: To what purpose is this waste? [9] For this might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. [10] And Jesus knowing it, said to them: Why do you trouble this woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.

[11] For the poor you have always with you: but me you have not always. [12] For she in pouring this ointment upon my body, hath done it for my burial. [13] Amen I say to you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done, shall be told for a memory of her. [14] Then went one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, to the chief priests, [15] And said to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? But they appointed him thirty pieces of silver.


[16] And from thenceforth he sought opportunity to betray him. [17] And on the first day of the Azymes, the disciples came to Jesus, saying: Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the pasch? [18] But Jesus said: Go ye into the city to a certain man, and say to him: the master saith, My time is near at hand, with thee I make the pasch with my disciples. [19] And the disciples did as Jesus appointed to them, and they prepared the pasch. [20] But when it was evening, he sat down with his twelve disciples.

[21] And whilst they were eating, he said: Amen I say to you, that one of you is about to betray me. [22] And they being very much troubled, began every one to say: Is it I, Lord? [23] But he answering, said: He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, he shall betray me. [24] The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed: it were better for him, if that man had not been born. [25] And Judas that betrayed him, answering, said: Is it I, Rabbi? He saith to him: Thou hast said it.

[26] And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. [27] And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. [28] For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins. [29] And I say to you, I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father. [30] And a hymn being said, they went out unto mount Olivet.

[31] Then Jesus said to them: All you shall be scandalized in me this night. For it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be dispersed. [32] But after I shall be risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. [33] And Peter answering, said to him: Although all shall be scandalized in thee, I will never be scandalized. [34] Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, that in this night before the cock crow, thou wilt deny me thrice. [35] Peter saith to him: Yea, though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee. And in like manner said all the disciples. [36] Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani; and he said to his disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray. [37] And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. [38] Then he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with me. [39] And going a little further, he fell upon his face, praying, and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. [40] And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?[41] Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak. [42] Again the second time, he went and prayed, saying: My Father, if this chalice may not pass away,




but I must drink it, thy will be done. [43] And he cometh again and findeth them sleeping: for their eyes were heavy.
[44] And leaving them, he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word. [45] Then he cometh to his disciples, and saith to them: Sleep ye now and take your rest; behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners.

[46] Rise, let us go: behold he is at hand that will betray me. [47] As he yet spoke, behold Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the ancients of the people. [48] And he that betrayed him, gave them a sign, saying: Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he, hold him fast. [49] And forthwith coming to Jesus, he said: Hail, Rabbi. And he kissed him. [50] And Jesus said to him: Friend, whereto art thou come? Then they came up, and laid hands on Jesus, and held him.

[51] And behold one of them that were with Jesus, stretching forth his hand, drew out his sword: and striking the servant of the high priest, cut off his ear. [52] Then Jesus saith to him: Put up again thy sword into its place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword. [53] Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and he will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels? [54] How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done? [55] In that same hour Jesus said to the multitudes: You are come out as it were to a robber with swords and clubs to apprehend me. I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you laid not hands on me.

[56] Now all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then the disciples all leaving him, fled. [57] But they holding Jesus led him to Caiphas the high priest, where the scribes and the ancients were assembled. [58] And Peter followed him afar off, even to the court of the high priest. And going in, he sat with the servants, that he might see the end. [59] And the chief priests and the whole council sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death: [60] And they found not, whereas many false witnesses had come in. And last of all there came two false witnesses:

[61] And they said: This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and after three days to rebuild it. [62] And the high priest rising up, said to him: Answerest thou nothing to the things which these witness against thee? [63] But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest said to him: I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us if thou be the Christ the Son of God. [64] Jesus saith to him: Thou hast said it. Nevertheless I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven. [65] Then the high priests rent his garments, saying: He hath blasphemed; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy:

[66] What think you? But they answering, said: He is guilty of death. [67] Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him: and others struck his face with the palms of their hands, [68] Saying: Prophesy unto us, O Christ, who is he that struck thee? [69] But Peter sat without in the court: and there came to him a servant maid, saying: Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean. [70] But he denied before them all, saying: I know not what thou sayest.

[71] And as he went out of the gate, another maid saw him, and she saith to them that were there: This man also was with Jesus of Nazareth. [72] And again he denied with an oath, I know not the man. [73] And after a little while they came that stood by, and said to Peter: Surely thou also art one of them; for even thy speech doth discover thee. [74] Then he began to curse and to swear that he knew not the man. And immediately the cock crew. [75] And Peter remembered the word of Jesus which he had said: Before the cock crow, thou wilt deny me thrice. And going forth, he wept bitterly.



[1] And when morning was come, all the chief priests and ancients of the people took counsel against Jesus, that they might put him to death. [2] And they brought him bound, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. [3] Then Judas, who betrayed him, seeing that he was condemned, repenting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and ancients, [4] Saying: I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. But they said: What is that to us? look thou to it. [5] And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed: and went and hanged himself with an halter.

[6] But the chief priests having taken the pieces of silver, said: It is not lawful to put them into the corbona, because it is the price of blood. [7] And after they had consulted together, they bought with them the potter' s field, to be a burying place for strangers. [8] For this cause the field was called Haceldama, that is, The field of blood, even to this day. [9] Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was prized, whom they prized of the children of Israel. [10] And they gave them unto the potter' s field, as the Lord appointed to me.

[6] Corbona: A place in the temple where the people put in their gifts or offerings.

[11] And Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, saying: Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus saith to him: Thou sayest it. [12] And when he was accused by the chief priests and ancients, he answered nothing. [13] Then Pilate saith to him: Dost not thou hear how great testimonies they allege against thee? [14] And he answered him to never a word; so that the governor wondered exceedingly. [15] Now upon the solemn day the governor was accustomed to release to the people one prisoner, whom they would.

[16] And he had then a notorious prisoner, that was called Barabbas. [17] They therefore being gathered together, Pilate said: Whom will you that I release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus that is called Christ? [18] For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. [19] And as he was sitting in the place of judgment, his wife sent to him, saying: Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. [20] But the chief priests and ancients persuaded the people, that they should ask for Barabbas, and take Jesus away.

[21] And the governor answering, said to them: Whether will you of the two to be released unto you? But they said, Barabbas. [22] Pilate saith to them: What shall I do then with Jesus that is called Christ? They say all: Let him be crucified. [23] The governor said to them: Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying: Let him be crucified. [24] And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made; taking water washed his hands before the people, saying: I am innocent of the blood of this just man; look you to it. [25] And the whole people answering, said: His blood be upon us and our children.

[26] Then he released to them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him unto them to be crucified. [27] Then the soldiers of the governor taking Jesus into the hall, gathered together unto him the whole band; [28] And stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him. [29] And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews. [30] And spitting upon him, they took the reed, and struck his head.

[31] And after they had mocked him, they took off the cloak from him, and put on him his own garments, and led him away to crucify him. [32] And going out, they found a man of Cyrene, named Simon: him they forced to take up his cross. [33] And they came to the place that is called Golgotha, which is the place of Calvary. [34] And they gave him wine to drink mingled with gall. And when he had tasted, he would not drink. [35] And after they had crucified him, they divided his garments, casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: They divided my garments among them; and upon my vesture they cast lots.

[36] And they sat and watched him. [37] And they put over his head his cause written: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. [38] Then were crucified with him two thieves: one on the right hand, and one on the left. [39] And they that passed by, blasphemed him, wagging their heads, [40] And saying: Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days dost rebuild it: save thy own self: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

[41] In like manner also the chief priests, with the scribes and ancients, mocking, said: [42] He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. [43] He trusted in God; let him now deliver him if he will have him; for he said: I am the Son of God. [44] And the selfsame thing the thieves also, that were crucified with him, reproached him with. [45] Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour.




[46] And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [47] And some that stood there and heard, said: This man calleth Elias. [48] And immediately one of them running took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar; and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. [49] And the others said: Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to deliver him. [50] And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

[51] And behold the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent. [52] And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose, [53] And coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, came into the holy city, and appeared to many. [54] Now the centurion and they that were with him watching Jesus, having seen the earthquake, and the things that were done, were sore afraid, saying: Indeed this was the Son of God. [55] And there were there many women afar off, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:

[56] Among whom was Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. [57] And when it was evening, there came a certain rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was a disciple of Jesus. [58] He went to Pilate, and asked the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded that the body should be delivered. [59] And Joseph taking the body, wrapped it up in a clean linen cloth. [60] And laid it in his own new monument, which he had hewed out in a rock. And he rolled a great stone to the door of the monument, and went his way.

[61] And there was there Mary Magdalen, and the other Mary sitting over against the sepulchre. [62] And the next day, which followed the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees came together to Pilate, [63] Saying: Sir, we have remembered, that that seducer said, while he was yet alive: After three days I will rise again. [64] Command therefore the sepulchre to be guarded until the third day: lest perhaps his disciples come and steal him away, and say to the people: He is risen from the dead; and the last error shall be worse than the first. [65] Pilate saith to them: You have a guard; go, guard it as you know.

[62] The day of preparation: The eve of the sabbath; so called, because on that day they prepared all things necessary; not being allowed so much as to dress their meat on the sabbath day.

[66] And they departing, made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting guards.
 
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The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Leo the Pope

Dearly beloved, the Solemnity of the Lord's Passion is come; that day which we have so desired, and which same is so precious to the whole world. Shouts of spiritual triumph are ringing, and suffer not that we should be silent. Even though it be hard to preach often on the same solemnity, and do so meetly and well, a priest is not free to shirk the duty of preaching to the faithful concerning this so great mystery of divine mercy. Nay, that his subject-matter is unspeakable should in itself make him eloquent, since where enough can never be said, there must needs ever be something to say. Let human weakness, then, fall down before the glory of God, and acknowledge itself unequal to the duty of expounding the works of his mercy. Let us toil in thought, let us fail in insight, let us falter in speech; it is good for us to feel how inadequate is the little we are able to express concerning the majesty of God.

For when the Prophet saith: Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face evermore: let no man thence conclude that he will ever find all that he seeketh. For if he cease his seeking, he will likewise cease to draw near. But among all the works of God which weary the stedfast gaze of man's wonder, what is there that doth at once so ravish and so exceed the power of our contemplation as the Passion of the Saviour? He it was who, to loose mankind from the bonds of the death-dealing Fall, spared to bring against the rage of the devil the power of the divine Majesty, and met him with the weakness of our lowly nature. For if our cruel and haughty enemy could have known the counsel of God's mercy, it had been his task rather to have softened the hearts of the Jews into meekness, than to have inflamed them with unrighteous hatred. Thus he might not have lost the thraldom of all his slaves, by attacking the liberty of the One that owed him nothing.

But he was undone by his own malice. For he brought upon the Son of God that death which is become life to all the sons of man. He shed that innocent blood which was to become at once the price of our redemption and the cup of our salvation. Wherefore the Lord hath received that which according to the purpose of his own good pleasure he hath chosen. He submitted himself to the ungodly hands of cruel men which, busy with their own sin, nonetheless ministered to the Redeemer's work. And such was his loving-kindness, even for his murderers, that his prayer to his Father from the Cross asked not vengeance for himself but forgiveness for them.

 
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