Today is Palm Sunday | Sunday Observer

Today is Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday – April 5, 2020. The final Sunday of the Season of Lent; the Sunday that begins the Holy Week. It is the Sunday before Easter Sunday; Resurrection Sunday - the day of victory over death. It commences six days before the Passover or Pesach, a major Jewish holiday. Usually, devotees participate in the reenactment of the arrival of Christ to the City of Jerusalem days before He was betrayed, tortured and finally crucified.

But today the world experiences a totally different Palm Sunday with the outbreak of the coronavirus early this year. Coronavirus also referred to as COVID-19, continues spreading to well over 189 countries, big and small; wealthy as well as poverty-stricken countries.

The Parish Churches of Sri Lanka, coming under the Administration of the Colombo Archdiocese - Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara will not conduct Palm Sunday services today in the respective missions.

The religious services conducted normally during the final week of the Season of Lent: the ‘TRIDUUM’- ‘Three days’ that is Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil Night - Holy Saturday services will not be conducted this year in view of the prevailing coronavirus.

Probably, all churches in the 18 districts severely affected by the catastrophe may follow the steps taken by the Colombo Archdiocese.

Although the religious services are not conducted with the participation of the Catholic devotees, steps have been taken to telecast and broadcast the services. The Catholics can observe the service in their homes.

Palm Sunday service reminds us of the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ to the city of Jerusalem. It is an event recorded in all four Gospels, making reference to the final week of Christ’s public life on earth.

Christ rides on a donkey, an animal of peace, impressing onlookers that He arrives as the Prince of Peace to the city of Jerusalem, not as a war-waging king riding on horseback.

The Gospels recording the event, recall that Jesus Christ is the King; Matthew 21: 4 reports quoting the prophecy from Zechariah 9: 9 and Isaiah 62: 11: “ Say to the daughter of Zion, behold Your King is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”. This causes anger to the Sanhedrin.

As Jesus Christ entered the city gates of Jerusalem, people celebrated His arrival waving palms, laying down their cloaks and spreading them, along with small branches of trees in front of Him, singing hosanna; with shouts of joy : “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord! ( (Psalm 118 :25- 26).

During Palm Sunday Eucharistic celebration, the palm leaves blessed are distributed among those present and the congregation carries the palm leaves in the ritual procession. Back in their homes they turn the palm leaves into small crosses and place them as signs of God’s protection. These small crosses would be returned to the respective Mission Churches to be incinerated to create ash that would be used on Ash Wednesday the following Easter.

It is on record that in the ancient world, people living in lands close to the Near East, today referred to as the Middle East showed reverence by covering the path that was to be passed by the dignitary, with their garments, cloaks or branches of flowering plants. Palms - Symbols of triumph and victory.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”(1 Cor. 15: 55 )

Palms and flowering plants are also used by the Jewish community as symbols of expressions of joy and honour (Leviticus 23: 40 )

The Catholic Church celebrates Palm Sunday following that tradition. Commencing the Eucharistic celebrations palm leaves blessed are distributed among those present. The chief celebrant of the Eucharistic Service then joins the procession while the congregation sings ‘Hosanna’. The word hosanna means: “save now.”

Humanity under bondage and slavery were expecting an earthly king to save them. But the ways of God are different. His Salvation is to all who trust in Him. “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD!” Ps. 118:26

Palm Sunday reminds us that Christ’s reign is far beyond our grasping, our understanding. The ultimate plan of God is realized through the sublime offering of the Life of Jesus on the Cross and through His Resurrection the humanity was set free.

‘I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies”. (John 11: 25),

We owe much to God this week for His gift of Everlasting Life.