The Triumphal Entry

The Message of Palm Sunday: The Sunday of the Passion

The Triumphal Entry
The Triumphal Entry by Pietro Lorenzetti

It strikes me every year that the liturgists who authored the Prayer Book Liturgy for Palm Sunday wanted to discourage long sermons.  More than any other service, the message is communicated at the level of the gut, viscerally.  Very little interpretation or explanation is required beyond simple participation in the service.  A service which leaves us, intentionally, at a moment of great despair, there to linger for a week reflecting on our role in the events that transpired.

And I don’t simply mean our role in the liturgy, obviously, but our role in the events that the liturgy and the readings recount.  In the Liturgy of the Palms, we stand with those who welcomed Jesus‘ entry into Jerusalem with loud “Hosannas” and cheers and rejoicing.  Standing with them, crying out with them, we’re reminded what it feels like to finally have that log awaited desire fulfilled.  To see our most hoped for reality come to pass.  The Messiah has come!  The King who will restore the land to its rightful people.  The one who will settle accounts, restore good fortune, put to right injustices and bring people into line with the sword.  Hosanna! we cry, connecting with the joy they felt, believing that the day of the Lord they had always envisioned was coming to pass, that the Kingdom they assumed God would establish was being called into being.  Finally.  after all these years.  It’s time to celebrate.  To lay palm fronds at the feet of the one who comes, of the Messiah we’ve been waiting for.

But then, something happens, and the Liturgy forces us to confront a sad reality about the great throngs that greeted Jesus at the gates of Jerusalem, and about the great throngs of people who have lived and died on this earth in all the years since.  We transition, with the crowd, from shouts of praise and Hossana, to the Passion Gospel where we cry out “Crucify him!”  We learn, through participation, that the people who cheered so mightily at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, cheered just as mightily for his crucifixion when they realized that this was not the Messiah that they wanted or expected.  This Jesus.  He was not the Messiah that they expected and this kingdom he announced… it was not a kingdom they wanted any part of.  And so they turned on him to protect what little they had, to guard the things they loved, the things they loved which they thought were dedicated to God, but for which they would crucify God.

And we’re there with them.

We’re put there with them by the liturgy, because we’re there with them in spirit so often in our day to day lives.  Today and throughout Holy Week we’re called to examine our relationship with God.  To examine what exactly it is we’re hoping for, why exactly it is we claim to follow this carpenter from Nazareth.  We’re called to seek within ourselves any evidence that we have, like the crowd, decided to shout “Hosanna,” because we have created a Messiah, a God, in our own image, because we have looked forward to the establishment of a kingdom governed by a law of our making.

We’re called to look with fresh eyes at Jesus and the message of his Gospel, and decide again whether it is a message we can handle, whether we’re willing to continue the hard work of changing our expectations and casting off our selfishness and prejudices in order to truly welcome the Kingdom that even now is coming more and more into reality.

We’re here today, as well, to be reminded of the times when we have said “Crucify him,” by our actions.  To be reminded of the times we have rejected the truth and message of the Gospel by rejecting what it means for us and for all people.  We may never have gone so far as to consciously reject or renounce Christ.  We may never have participated in a “de-baptism” ritual, such as have become popular among atheists in England these days.  Be that as it may, I would go so far as to say that all of us have at some point done something so out of conformity with what Jesus would have us do that we might as well have shouted those words while he stood in front of that crowd.

Our service today invites us to remember that, at least as much as any of the actions of those actually present in Jerusalem at that time, our sin, our need for redemption, placed Jesus on the cross.

In the words of the old Lutheran Hymn:

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee

Or as a priest friend of mine put it in one of his sermons:

We may well ask ourselves which role we play in this human drama. Do we test God, Jesus, the Spirit in terms of “What is in it for me?” The crowd did. Do we resent the way the Faith accuses us and wish we could silence Jesus, as Judas hoped? Do we run from Jesus and hide behind self-preservation? How ironic it is that the religious leaders and most of the disciples acted from self-interest. The Chief Priests convinced themselves that an unholy murder was justified to safeguard the institution. The disciples perhaps convinced themselves that if the work was to continue, they should protect themselves from arrest and punishment.

Over and over again in the long story of the church, Christian people have acted the roles we encounter today, not just on Palm Sunday… (Fr. Tony Clavier)

The reality is that as humans we are all of us, mixed bags.  Traditional Christian Theology has explained this by juxtaposing the reality that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, with the idea of Original Sin, which, though it can been articulated in different ways, basically means that, if God were to become incarnate today, if Jesus were to return, people today would react the same way they did over two thousand years ago.  The great philosopher Aristotle famously said that humanity “when perfected is the best of animals; but if […] isolated from law and justice […] worst of all.”

What Aristotle believed could only come by law and justice, as Christians, we know can come only through Grace.  Living well means saying yes to grace.

Rowan Williams makes the observation in his book Tokens of Trust:

“Only three human individuals are mentioned in the Creed, Jesus, Mary and Pontius Pilate: that is, Jesus; the one who says ‘yes’ to him; and the one who says ‘no’ to him. You could say that those three names map out the territory in which we all live. Through our lives, we swing towards one pole or the other, towards a deeper ‘yes’ or towards a deeper ‘no’. And in the middle of it all stands the one who makes sense of it all. Jesus—the one into whose life we must all try to grow, who can work with our ‘yes’ and can even overcome our ‘no’.” (p 76)

Palm Sunday with it’s liturgy is here to remind us that we all move back and forth on that continuum, that we all say no and we all say yes.  The challenge of the Christian life is to say the yes more and more and the no less and less.

Entombment of Christ by Fra Angelico

As Williams puts it in his book Resurrection: interpreting the Easter Gospel:

The condemning court, the murderous ‘city’, [i.e. Jerusalem, or more generally the world as opposed to God’s will] is indeed judged as resisting the saving will of God; but that does not mean that the will of God ceases to be saving. The rulers and the people are in rebellion; yet they act ‘in ignorance’ (Acts 3:17; cf. Luke 23:34), and God still waits to be graciously present in ‘times of refreshing’ (Acts 3:19). And grace is released when the judges turn to their victim and recognize him as their hope and their savior.” (p3)

If we are looking for hope in today’s bleak retelling of the Passion and death of Christ, it is that when we recognize our complicity in evil, we do not have to stay there.  We are not finally condemned.  Just because we may find ourselves resisting the saving will of God, that does not mean it is not saving.  And that is good news to hang onto as we mark the way of the cross this Holy Week.

Books referenced:

Book of Common Prayer
Resurrection
Tokens of Trust
  • http://intensedebate.com/people/AdamWade Adam

    I'm not a fan of having Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday in the same Eucharist. I've never liked crying "Hosanna" and then, maybe 10 minutes later, crying "Crucify Him!" It seems to me that both events get shortchanged by combining them. But I suppose both events were so closely linked temporally that combining them does give one a sense of emotional lability present in Jerusalem that week. Perhaps it is also unsettling enough to prepare us for the most emotionally intense week of the year.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/JodyH Jody+

      Adam,

      I see what you're saying (I think I've have the same conversation with Thom in the past), but I think, without being able to guarantee that everyone attend Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter as well, the combination Liturgy is one of the best. I certainly think it gives us something distinct. I also like the juxtaposition because of the (at least in my analysis) theological truths it highlights… but then you probably already knew that since I mention it, at least in passing, almost every Palm Sunday!

  • http://in-fraction.blogspot.com Thom

    L carries the torch highest on this one, but I have to concur. Why any liturgical church would collapse bits of holy week into each other for the sake of eyeballs (cpm)–put another way–for the sake of advertising–importing business logic into the realm of logos–is beyond me. I'd expect it of anabaptists, but from Reformed? We don't import market thinking into our liturgy at any other time. And isn't a strength the very otherness of the liturgy. The whole thing is, well, inconsistent. Time is treated as finite. #holyfail
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    • http://intensedebate.com/people/JodyH Jody+

      Well Thom, It's not as if the liturgists of the 79 prayerbook made it up out of whole cloth. The Palm procession on Palm Sunday was a tradition that began early on in Jerusalem and gradually spread elsewhere and was actually *restored* by the 79 book (as it had been included in the Book of Offices, the predecessor to the current book of occaisonal services earlier) Before this, the Sunday before Easter was simply "The Sunday next before Easter" or, later "The Sunday of the Passion," which is why that title still has pride of place in the BCP, i.e. "The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday." The First BCP of 1549 included the Matthean Passion narrative as the Gospel reading for this day, and the collect was as follows:

      Almightie and euerlastynge God, whiche of they tender loue towarde man, haste sente our sauior to suffre death upon the crosse, that all mankynde shoulde followe the example of his greate humiltie; mercifully graunte that we both followe the example of his pacience, and be made partakers of his resurreccion; thoroughe the same Jesus Christ our lord.

      This pretty much demonstrates that the focus of the Liturgy was the Cross. This was true of the Sarum liturgy as well (the medieval use based out of Salisbury, which became the basis for the BCP), which is where the collect is taken from, as well as the Epistle reading. From the Medieval period onward, the Liturgy of the Palms was an outdoor procession, serving in many ways as a counterpoint to the stations of the cross, it was never, as far as I know, the focus of the eucharistic service, which seems to have been focused on the Passion from early on.

      By the reading of the Passion Gospel, the 79 BCP simply follows tradition as well. Marion Hatchett in his Commentary on the American Prayerbook gives a general overview of this history and how we got to where we are now:

      At the Eucharist

      […] The collect, psalm, and lections point us toward the approaching death of Christ upon the cross. The alternative Old Testament lections from Second Isaiah have been traditionally interpreted by the church in terms of the passion of our Lord. The gradual, Psalm 22 or Psalm 22:1-11, has been used as a tract since the middle ages, that is, a Psalm used before the Gospel of the day. Phillipians 2:5-11 as the epistle of the day was appointed in the earliest Roman lectionary and has been the Epistle in all editions of the Prayer Book. Some commentators consider this to be a quotation from an early Christian hymn. It is certainly one of Paul's primary statements of the doctrine of Christ, stressing as it does both our Lord's humble obedience unto death and his exaltation as Lord. It might be compared with Colosians 1:11-20.

      The Passion Gospel

      In some of the oldest lectionaries the Matthean account of the passion (Mt. 26:1–27:66) was read on Palm Sunday. The Lukan and Johannine accounts were read respectively on Wednesday and Friday, the traditional station days. Mark was omitted because it was mistakenly considered to be extracted from Matthew. At a later stage, when a liturgy developed for the Tuesday of Holy Week, the Markan account was read on that day. The 1549 Book used an abbreviated version of the traditional Matthean passion (Mt. 26:1-27:56, omitting the burial) on Sunday and appointed that of John for Good Friday. The narrative of Mark was split between Monday and Tuesday and that in Luke between Wednesday and Thursday. In the 1662 revision Matthew 26 was shifted to Morning Prayer as the second lesson and verses 55 and 56 of chapter 27 were omitted in order to give a better climax, the confession of the centurion, "Truly this was the Son of God." The present revision appoints the three synoptic accounts to be read on Palm Sunday in a three-year cycle.

      The rubrics restore certain traditions, such as the manner in which the passion is announced, and the possibility of a dramatic presentation in which different persons may take specific roles with the congregation speaking for the crowd. So that the people may be more attentive to readings of such length, the congregation is permitted to sit until the verse which mentions the arrival at Golgotha.

      In a liturgy of this content and weight the use of the Nicene Creed and the confession of sin seems unnecessary if not redundant; a rubric allows for their omission.

      The thing to take away, is, I suppose, that it is the Palm Sunday Procession that is optional in the prayer book liturgy, not the Passion Narrative, which means that–whether right or wrong–the emphasis is to be placed there. The issue of more people being at the Sunday before Easter than would be at Good Friday is, prom my perspective, an important one pastorally, but not decisive, as this shows. If anything, we could perhaps blame the early Christian fascination with the death of Christ for this, but not, I think, advertising (besides, what sort of advertising is it in our culture that is so avoidant of death, to emphasize it… if anything it is the joy and pomp of processions such as that of the Palms that speak to people in that way–and, not, I think in a necessarily bad way). #holyfail

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/JodyH Jody+

      My comment about taping eyelids open was referring to the need, I believe, we have to be challenged by the ubiquity of sin in our lives–I think the Palm Sunday Liturgy as it stands in the BCP does this in one of the most effective ways I've seen.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JodyH Jody+

    Maybe one antidote to the feeling of one being short-changed is to expand the procession and have one more in keeping with the original, i.e. with stations and more reflection before moving into the Eucharist?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/annahoward Anna

    Without writing too long and involved a comment on this *cough cough*, the little practical theologian in me loves this liturgy for the very reason that it IS unsettling to cry both Hosanna and Crucify Him all in a few minutes. It seems absurd, and yet this exactly is what the crowd gathered for the Passover in Jerusalem did that first Holy Week. They only lauded him when they thought he was what they wanted, and when he wasn't what they expected, they turned and cried out "Crucify Him." How often do we do the same in our own lives in little and not so obvious ways?

    The liturgy should unsettle because it should remind us how fickle we are when God doesn't show up the way we expect him to.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JodyH Jody+

    Too long and involved? Who could you be referring to, I don't understand… :-p

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/AdamWade Adam

    I don't know if it was clear in my first post, but I am coming to appreciate the combining of the Passion and Palm Sundays. And I do think that remembering the Passion is more important than remembering the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Still, it's not ideal.

    I do wish the observance of Good Friday was not falling out of fashion. I had little appreciation for the holiday (other than the day off from school/work) when I was a Campbellite, and now I find Good Friday is perhaps the most important day of the year for me spiritually (perhaps channeling those early and medieval Christians).

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/JodyH Jody+

      I hope the observance of Good Friday is not falling out of fashion with us… I hope it's becoming more popular.

      I still wonder if engaging in a more robust Palm Sunday Procession might take the edge off of the short-changed feeling you have. What if we started down in the neighborhood for instance, or across the street at the Chamber of Commerce?

      Of course, there is such a thing as going too far the other way. I've heard of one Episcopal Church that goes so far as to have a Donkey and a person playing the part of Jesus, as well as people playing Roman Guards etc… and evidently on Palm Sunday, at the elevation, they fire off a Canon outside the Church building….
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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/AdamWade Adam

    By the way, people talk about the state of education in America, but 16th century England must have been awful. Cranmer could write lovely prayers, but his spelling was atrocious! :p

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/JodyH Jody+

      Yes indeed. One of the things I love about the 15-16-17th centuries is that English writing is sort of like a crap shoot as far as what spelling will be used. The funniest thing is when people use multiple spellings of the same word in the same text. I've heard someone quip that in that time, only an uneducated person would have only one way to spell a word… not sure if that's true, but it certainly seems so.

      It would also make phonics and "sounding out" a bit more difficult. Though maybe it could give us some insight into the way people talked.
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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JodyH Jody+

    It's not as if the liturgists of the 79 prayerbook made it up out of whole cloth. The Palm procession on Palm Sunday was a tradition that began early on in Jerusalem and gradually spread elsewhere and was actually *restored* by the 79 book (as it had been included in the Book of Offices, the predecessor to the current book of occaisonal services earlier) Before this, the Sunday before Easter was simply "The Sunday next before Easter" or, later "The Sunday of the Passion," which is why that title still has pride of place in the BCP, i.e. "The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday." The First BCP of 1549 included the Matthean Passion narrative as the Gospel reading for this day, and the collect was as follows:

    Almightie and euerlastynge God, whiche of they tender loue towarde man, haste sente our sauior to suffre death upon the crosse, that all mankynde shoulde followe the example of his greate humiltie; mercifully graunte that we both followe the example of his pacience, and be made partakers of his resurreccion; thoroughe the same Jesus Christ our lord.

    This pretty much demonstrates that the focus of the Liturgy was the Cross. This was true of the Sarum liturgy as well (the medieval use based out of Salisbury, which became the basis for the BCP), which is where the collect is taken from, as well as the Epistle reading. From the Medieval period onward, the Liturgy of the Palms was an outdoor procession, serving in many ways as a counterpoint to the stations of the cross, it was never, as far as I know, the focus of the eucharistic service, which seems to have been focused on the Passion from early on.

    By the reading of the Passion Gospel, the 79 BCP simply follows tradition as well. Marion Hatchett in his Commentary on the American Prayerbook gives a general overview of this history and how we got to where we are now:

    At the Eucharist

    […] The collect, psalm, and lections point us toward the approaching death of Christ upon the cross. The alternative Old Testament lections from Second Isaiah have been traditionally interpreted by the church in terms of the passion of our Lord. The gradual, Psalm 22 or Psalm 22:1-11, has been used as a tract since the middle ages, that is, a Psalm used before the Gospel of the day. Phillipians 2:5-11 as the epistle of the day was appointed in the earliest Roman lectionary and has been the Epistle in all editions of the Prayer Book. Some commentators consider this to be a quotation from an early Christian hymn. It is certainly one of Paul's primary statements of the doctrine of Christ, stressing as it does both our Lord's humble obedience unto death and his exaltation as Lord. It might be compared with Colosians 1:11-20.

    The Passion Gospel

    In some of the oldest lectionaries the Matthean account of the passion (Mt. 26:1–27:66) was read on Palm Sunday. The Lukan and Johannine accounts were read respectively on Wednesday and Friday, the traditional station days. Mark was omitted because it was mistakenly considered to be extracted from Matthew. At a later stage, when a liturgy developed for the Tuesday of Holy Week, the Markan account was read on that day. The 1549 Book used an abbreviated version of the traditional Matthean passion (Mt. 26:1-27:56, omitting the burial) on Sunday and appointed that of John for Good Friday. The narrative of Mark was split between Monday and Tuesday and that in Luke between Wednesday and Thursday. In the 1662 revision Matthew 26 was shifted to Morning Prayer as the second lesson and verses 55 and 56 of chapter 27 were omitted in order to give a better climax, the confession of the centurion, "Truly this was the Son of God." The present revision appoints the three synoptic accounts to be read on Palm Sunday in a three-year cycle.

    The rubrics restore certain traditions, such as the manner in which the passion is announced, and the possibility of a dramatic presentation in which different persons may take specific roles with the congregation speaking for the crowd. So that the people may be more attentive to readings of such length, the congregation is permitted to sit until the verse which mentions the arrival at Golgotha.

    In a liturgy of this content and weight the use of the Nicene Creed and the confession of sin seems unnecessary if not redundant; a rubric allows for their omission.

    The thing to take away, is, I suppose, that it is the Palm Sunday Procession that is optional in the prayer book liturgy, not the Passion Narrative, which means that–whether right or wrong–the emphasis is to be placed there. The issue of more people being at the Sunday before Easter than would be at Good Friday is, from my perspective, an important one pastorally, but not decisive, as this shows. If anything, we could perhaps blame the early Christian fascination with the death of Christ for this, but not, I think, advertising (besides, what sort of advertising is it in our culture that is so avoidant of death, to emphasize it… if anything it is the joy and pomp of processions such as that of the Palms that speak to people in that way–and, not, I think in a necessarily bad way). #holyfail

  • http://in-fraction.blogspot.com/ Thom

    Well, I have certainly learned something by reading these comments. It seems I had everything completely backward. So let me try and turn toward sensibility a bit, with the help of you, the informed. Could it be that the inclusion of the triumphal entry as a part of the Holy Week celebration mirrors the rise of the church's understanding of the eschatological figure of the Kingdom of God? The triumphal entry is the gateway for the political hopes of Israel for a heavenly city in which God would dwell with humanity. So, I guess I'm still of the opinion that pulling apart the two poles is helpful. And this could be done without losing the "don't think this doesn't apply to you" point. This personal challenge is a deep thread that runs through the entire passion narrative. Might I also add that it is not just a personal challenge, but a political one. Actually, the personal comes second to the political. The people speaking are individuals, yes, but crowds. And, yes, children are mentioned in the one but not the other–but children form a typology of those who are fit to be members of the kingdom, and this is nothing if not another political trope (citizenship, kingdom, children demarcated not by age or state of development but by political position in the polis). All said, as the church more and more realizes that eschatology is the fundamental language of theology then I could see more contemplative time given to both poles.
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    • Chris

      Year late but hopefully not a dollar short.

      Just for clarity then, we kill Jesus twice to ensure we know He is dead before we celebrate His resurrection on Easter? Isnt it a bit disjointed to kill Him on Sunday, then try to recalibrate and celebrate Maundy Thursday, then get all set to travel the via dela rosa on Friday and kill Him again. Liturgically, theologically, pastorally, none of this makes sense to me. In John we find Jesus triumphant entry (arriving), presenting Himself to the temple for Q&A, then the passion unfolds.

      If we are simply worried about people not participating in the liturgy because it does not fall on a Sunday, perhaps we should celebrate Christmas on Advent 4 and again on Christmas Eve/Day?

      • http://frjody.com Jody Howard

        Chris,

        It may seem disjointed, but only if you think of Holy Week as necessarily following a chronological pattern at all times, and not having an over-all focus on the passion. The Eucharist for the Sunday before Easter has traditionally focused on the Passion of Christ as a entry into Holy Week with its overall focus on the passion and death of Christ culminating on Good Friday/Holy Saturday. As I said, the Liturgy of the Palms was a bit of pomp picked up over the years, and, like other processions, was a bit like a mini-pilgrimage, but it was never the focus of the service on Sunday. In a sense, it’s impossible for us to forget that Christ died and rose–hence, for us, there’s always a beacon of Easter hope even in Holy Week (which should teach us something about the Christian life I think).

        Thanks for commenting, it’s nice to see some more interaction on this post. I may update the time stamp to make it more current if folks would like to continue the conversation.

    • Chris

      Year late but hopefully not a dollar short.

      Just for clarity then, we kill Jesus twice to ensure we know He is dead before we celebrate His resurrection on Easter? Isnt it a bit disjointed to kill Him on Sunday, then try to recalibrate and celebrate Maundy Thursday, then get all set to travel the via dela rosa on Friday and kill Him again. Liturgically, theologically, pastorally, none of this makes sense to me. In John we find Jesus triumphant entry (arriving), presenting Himself to the temple for Q&A, then the passion unfolds.

      If we are simply worried about people not participating in the liturgy because it does not fall on a Sunday, perhaps we should celebrate Christmas on Advent 4 and again on Christmas Eve/Day?

      • http://frjody.com Jody Howard

        Chris,

        It may seem disjointed, but only if you think of Holy Week as necessarily following a chronological pattern at all times, and not having an over-all focus on the passion. The Eucharist for the Sunday before Easter has traditionally focused on the Passion of Christ as a entry into Holy Week with its overall focus on the passion and death of Christ culminating on Good Friday/Holy Saturday. As I said, the Liturgy of the Palms was a bit of pomp picked up over the years, and, like other processions, was a bit like a mini-pilgrimage, but it was never the focus of the service on Sunday. In a sense, it’s impossible for us to forget that Christ died and rose–hence, for us, there’s always a beacon of Easter hope even in Holy Week (which should teach us something about the Christian life I think).

        Thanks for commenting, it’s nice to see some more interaction on this post. I may update the time stamp to make it more current if folks would like to continue the conversation.

    • http://frjody.com Jody Howard

      Thom, what, for you, would be an appropriate means of granting contemplative time to the triumphal entry? Having it be the focal point of the entire service on Palm Sunday? Moving it back a week, and then having the Sunday of the Passion the Sunday before Easter?

    • http://frjody.com Jody Howard

      Thom, what, for you, would be an appropriate means of granting contemplative time to the triumphal entry? Having it be the focal point of the entire service on Palm Sunday? Moving it back a week, and then having the Sunday of the Passion the Sunday before Easter?

  • http://frjody.com Jody Howard

    As I mentioned last year, Marion Hatchett in his Commentary on the American Prayer Book has a good summary of the history here, but of most importance to Episcopalians/Anglicans is the background of the Sarum use, which formed the basis of much of the Book of Common Prayer:

    The Sarum form was extraordinarily complicated. After two lessons, Exodus 15:27–16:10 and John 12:12-19, the “flowers and leaves” were exorcised. The priest then said four prayers for a blessing on the branches and on the people who would carry them. Before the last prayer the branches were sprinkled with holy water and censed. As the branches were distributed and the procession formed to move to the first station, anthems were sung, their content mainly taken from the gospel accounts of the entry into Jerusalem. Christ’s presence in the procession was symbolized by the reserved Sacrament; in Rome and other places the custom was to carry a book of the Gospels. At the first station the Matthean account of the entry (21:1-9) was read. At the second station, seven boys sang the ninth century hymn “All glory, laud, and honor,” wit the first stanza repeated as a refrain after each stanza of the hymn. Three clerks chanted at the third station, their text John 11:49-50, “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” The procession stopped before the rood for the fourth station: the cross on the rood screen which had been veiled during Lent, was uncovered for the day and the choir sang, “Hail, our King, Son of David, Redeemer of the world, whom the prophets have proclaimed the Savior of the house of Israel who is to come; for the Father sent you into the world to be a saving victim, whom all the saints have expected from the beginning of the world, and now, Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”

    The Mass following the procession contained no reference to the Palm Sunday entry. Its prayers, chants, and lections related Christ’s passion and marked the day as the beginning of Holy Week. The distinctive feature of the Mass was the singing of the whole passion narrative (Mt. 26:1-27:61). The reading was announced simply “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.” (Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book, p. 224)

    The service of the ’79 BCP clearly has a simplification of this service in mind. I wonder if one of the problems we have is a difference in modern and medieval sensibilities (and perhaps catholic and protestant) where we tend to automatically focus on Holy Week as a recapitulation/memorial of the events leading up to and including Christ’s crucifixion, but for our forebears it was an invitation to enter more and more deeply throughout the week into the contemplation of Christ’s death on the cross, with any sort of retelling/chronology taking second place to this crucicentric piety.

  • http://frjody.com Jody Howard

    As I mentioned last year, Marion Hatchett in his Commentary on the American Prayer Book has a good summary of the history here, but of most importance to Episcopalians/Anglicans is the background of the Sarum use, which formed the basis of much of the Book of Common Prayer:

    The Sarum form was extraordinarily complicated. After two lessons, Exodus 15:27–16:10 and John 12:12-19, the “flowers and leaves” were exorcised. The priest then said four prayers for a blessing on the branches and on the people who would carry them. Before the last prayer the branches were sprinkled with holy water and censed. As the branches were distributed and the procession formed to move to the first station, anthems were sung, their content mainly taken from the gospel accounts of the entry into Jerusalem. Christ’s presence in the procession was symbolized by the reserved Sacrament; in Rome and other places the custom was to carry a book of the Gospels. At the first station the Matthean account of the entry (21:1-9) was read. At the second station, seven boys sang the ninth century hymn “All glory, laud, and honor,” wit the first stanza repeated as a refrain after each stanza of the hymn. Three clerks chanted at the third station, their text John 11:49-50, “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” The procession stopped before the rood for the fourth station: the cross on the rood screen which had been veiled during Lent, was uncovered for the day and the choir sang, “Hail, our King, Son of David, Redeemer of the world, whom the prophets have proclaimed the Savior of the house of Israel who is to come; for the Father sent you into the world to be a saving victim, whom all the saints have expected from the beginning of the world, and now, Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”

    The Mass following the procession contained no reference to the Palm Sunday entry. Its prayers, chants, and lections related Christ’s passion and marked the day as the beginning of Holy Week. The distinctive feature of the Mass was the singing of the whole passion narrative (Mt. 26:1-27:61). The reading was announced simply “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.” (Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book, p. 224)

    The service of the ’79 BCP clearly has a simplification of this service in mind. I wonder if one of the problems we have is a difference in modern and medieval sensibilities (and perhaps catholic and protestant) where we tend to automatically focus on Holy Week as a recapitulation/memorial of the events leading up to and including Christ’s crucifixion, but for our forebears it was an invitation to enter more and more deeply throughout the week into the contemplation of Christ’s death on the cross, with any sort of retelling/chronology taking second place to this crucicentric piety.