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What is Palm Sunday?



Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the most sacred time of the year for Christians. It commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem when crowds welcomed him by waving palm branches and covering his path with palm fronds and cloaks. This joyous occasion soon gave way to his arrest, suffering, and death by crucifixion.

The Meaning Behind the Palm Branches

The palm branch was an ancient symbol of victory and triumph. By waving palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds proclaimed him the long-awaited Messiah and King. This act provoked the ire of the Roman and Jewish authorities who feared Jesus represented a threat to their power.

Gospel Accounts of Palm Sunday

The accounts of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday appear in all four canonical Gospels:

Matthew 21:1-11

Mark 11:1-11  

Luke 19:28-44

John 12:12-19

While details vary slightly, they all describe Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem while being praised by adoring crowds waving palms and chanting passages from the Hebrew scriptures.

Palm Sunday Quotes

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)

This quote from Matthew recounts the words shouted by the crowds as Jesus entered Jerusalem. “Hosanna” means “save now” and acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah.

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (John 12:12-13)

Palm Sunday Songs and Hymns

Many traditional Christian hymns commemorate the events of Palm Sunday:

“All Glory, Laud, and Honor” – This ancient hymn from the 9th century re-enacts Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. It is commonly sung during Palm Sunday processions.

“Hosanna, Loud Hosanna” – A popular 19th-century hymn written by Jeannette Threlfall recounting the Gospel narrative of the triumphant procession.

“No Tramp of Soldiers’ Marching Feet” – Written in the 20th century, this hymn by Timothy Dudley-Smith contrasts the humble nature of Christ’s entrance on a donkey versus a conquering king arriving on a warhorse.

A Personal Reflection on Palm Sunday

Read a poignant personal reflection written by Flora X. Tang, connecting her experience of coming out as queer to the events and symbolism of Palm Sunday. A few key excerpts:

“Six years ago…I came out as queer…I decided this liturgically maximalist Palm Sunday procession would be the most fitting feast day that I could choose to commemorate every year as my ‘coming out anniversary.'”

Tang initially found solace and affirmation in the passion narrative, reflecting God’s boundless love: “When on Palm Sunday I came out to myself and to God, I was certain—and rested comfortably in the certainty—that God loves me for who I am because he died for me.”

However, she goes on to grapple with the violence and suffering in the Gospel accounts and questions their meaning for the LGBTQ community: “If all are called to follow Jesus in his life and self-giving death, are we, as queer Catholics, also called to a life of suffering, ostracization, and perhaps even death because we choose to reveal who we are?”

Tang’s powerful reflection highlights the complex interconnections between Scripture, liturgy, identity, and liberation. Her closing words capture the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ people of faith to reconcile their identities with traditional Christian narratives fully:

“I am not so sure anymore whether the image of an incarnate God-the-Son who died on the cross can continue to give me and other queer people hope and comfort in a violent, anti-queer church and world. But my yearly commemoration of this Palm Sunday-qua-coming out feast day (and all the queer joy in my own life that followed that day six years ago) gives me a reason to continue trying, and continue hoping.”

As the most sacred week of the Christian year begins, Palm Sunday invites believers of all backgrounds to reflect profoundly on the paradoxes of the Passion story – triumph and suffering, joy and sorrow, life and death. For LGBTQ Christians and others on the margins, this eternal narrative takes on special meaning and resonance in their perpetual quest for acceptance, affirmation, and liberation.

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