Revised and updated from the Archives....
I always enjoy Palm Sunday greatly as the opening of my favorite time of the liturgical year: Holy Week. During this week, I try to focus on Jesus' final teachings to His disciples, on His humility in washing the disciples' feet, on His institution of the Lord's Supper during Passover, on His agony in Gethsemane, on His trial before the authorities, on His suffering as He was beaten and scourged almost to the point of death, on the brutal mockery He endured for our sakes, upon the sorrow and passion of His crucifixion, and finally on the joy of His miraculous and glorious Resurrection.
The fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures always strikes me fully during this week--so many details foretold hundreds of years ahead regarding the final week of Jesus' earthly life come true in the New Testament Gospel accounts of this last week of Jesus' earthly life.
In the 21st chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, we read first a quotation from the Old Testament:
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet [Zechariah], saying,
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" [Zechariah 9:9].
The disciples ... brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and He sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:4-9, ESV).
By the way, the Book of Zechariah was written between 520-518 BC, more than half a millennium before the time of Jesus' earthly life.
The Collect for the Sixth Sunday in Lent: Palm Sunday from The Book of Common Prayer 2011 reads:
ALMIGHTY and eternal Father, who in your tender love for humanity, sent your Son Jesus Christ as a man to dwell among us and in mortal flesh to suffer death upon the cross, so that all people might learn true humility; In your mercy, grant that we may follow him in his sufferings and share in his resurrection; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (References: Philippians 2.4-8; 3.9-10; Hebrews 12.3)
In liturgical churches, the palms distributed in Palm Sunday's services are bent and folded into crosses and then saved by being put behind icons or framed pictures of Jesus until the Sunday before the next Ash Wednesday when they are burned and the ashes used to anoint the foreheads of those attending the Ash Wednesday services as a new Lenten season begins. I love how the palms come full circle: the Holy Week from one year coming into the beginning of the next year's Lent. As Benedict states in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, "There's a double meaning in that."
I missed any sense of liturgy in the Palm Sunday service at Pine Valley Community Church; no one mentioned that it was Palm Sunday. We didn't sing the praise song "Hosanna in the Highest." No palms were seen anywhere. I texted Father Acker of Blessed Trinity to save me some palms that I keep on the shelf above my desk until the next Lent rolls around. In past years at Lake Murray Community Church in La Mesa, our church home for twenty years, we often entered the sanctuary on Palm Sunday to see huge palm fronds strewn along the front of the auditorium, and we always sang several praise songs that include the all-important word for this day: "Hosanna." And frequently one of the pastors or elders read the Triumphal Entry from one of the Gospels.
At Blessed Trinity Anglican Church, which meets on Sundays at the SCAIR Center in downtown El Cajon, they had a Blessing of the Palms as well as a Passion Theater in which various congregants take the parts of narrator, Jesus, and Pilate, and the rest of the congregation will be The People...the People who demanded over and over, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" mere days after welcoming Jesus with enthusiastic cries of "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosannah in the highest!"
My week will be very busy with Holy Week services: a Messianic Seder with Blessed Trinity Anglican Church at the SCAIR Center in downtown El Cajon on Tuesday evening at 6:30, Maundy Thursday evening services including footwashing also at the SCAIR Center at 6:30, the Good Friday liturgy again with the Blessed Trinity Anglican at the rectory in Alpine at 6:30 in the evening, and the Holy Saturday Vigil, my favorite liturgy of the entire Christian Year, also at the rectory in Alpine a little later in the evening (7:00 PM) so that the rectory is darkened as we bring in the Paschal Light, lighting our candles from the huge beeswax candle with the red Alpha and Omega on the side and with five nails pressed into the beeswax to represent the five wounds of Christ. Then we'll celebrate Resurrection Sunday with services in the front yard of the Pine Valley Community Church parsonage after a community Easter breakfast at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center across the street from the parsonage. With a new pastor this year, I am hoping for a joyful and exuberant celebration of the Resurrection, preferably with the singing of my favorite Easter hymn, "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today."
I wish a blessed Holy Week to you and yours, dear readers. May we all experience the sorrow of Christ's sacrifical death for us and the joy of His glorious Resurrection by which He saved all people, past, present, and future, from all of their sins, past, present, and future.
Following in His footsteps this Holy Week,