Palm Sunday commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1–9), when palm branches were placed in his path, before his arrest on Holy Thursday and his crucifixion on Good Friday. [Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is mentioned in all four canonical Gospels.] It thus marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent.
Palm fronds are blessed with holy water outside the church building; then a solemn procession takes place, usually including the entire congregation. During the Mass which follows the procession, the Passion is sung.
Though no mention of either the benediction of the palms or the procession is found in the three oldest Roman Sacramentaries, the Pilgrimage of Egeria (a detailed account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the early 380s), speaks of a lengthy procession “On the Lord’s Day which begins the Paschal, or Great, Week” at the end of which “all went back to the city, repeating ‘Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord’.” This tradition seems to have arisen in Jerusalem and thus passed to the rest of the Western Church by the 9th or 10th century.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
“Palm branches have been used by all nations as an emblem of joy and victory over enemies; in Christianity as a sign of victory over the flesh and the world according to Psalm 91:13, ‘Justus ut palma florebit’; hence especially associated with the memory of the martyrs. The palms blessed on Palm Sunday were used in the procession of the day, then taken home by the faithful and used as a sacramental. They were preserved in prominent places in the house, in the barns, and in the fields, and thrown into the fire during storms. On the Lower Rhine the custom exists of decorating the grave with blessed palms. From the blessed palms the ashes are procured for Ash Wednesday.”
St. Luke’s will begin the Blessing of Psalms and Procession on Palm Sunday at 8:15 am, with the Mass for Palm Sunday starting at 8:30 am. We encourage parishioners and friends to come early to participate in the full liturgy.