Preparing for Palm Sunday

TRUMBULL– Preparing for Palm Sunday—Young people from St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull help to prepare palms for their distribution on Palm Sunday.

The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem the week before his passion and crucifixion. The Gospels attest that as Jesus entered the city, crowds lay down palm branches and cloaks as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

For centuries, Christians have commemorated the feast day that begins Holy Week by waving branches of either palm or another local tree, as well as with liturgical processions and other celebrations.

According to a story by Catholic News Agency (CNA), in the U.S. alone, nearly 18,000 Catholic parishes will celebrate Palm Sunday by blessing and distributing palm branches to the faithful.

“It is so encouraging that in so many places, people of all ages, including younger people, are being introduced or re-introduced to the true magnificence of the Church’s liturgical tradition – the great heritage which is ours by Baptism – in the solemn chants, music, and actions of the sacred rites,” said Fr. Joseph Marcello, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish.

In this reflection taken from the St. Catherine of Siena parish bulletin, Fr. Joseph Marcello, pastor, explains the practices that mark the beginning of the “Passiontide”:

“We have now entered the period of Passiontide, the last and most intense phase of Lent.

“As you look around the sanctuary, and see in the example of the accompanying photo, you’ll notice that the corpus of the crucified Christ, as well as the statues, which have been brought into the sanctuary for this very sacred time, are covered in violet veils. This practice is centuries old, and has its origins in the former liturgical calendar,
in which, on this Sunday, the Gospel reading was taken from the eighth chapter of the Gospel of St. John. This passage says, in part:

“The Jews said to Jesus, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple area.”

“Jesus hid himself.” Because of the hardness of heart of those who rejected Our Lord (which is all of us, at various times, through sin) the Church recalls this event, and withdraws from our eyes the image of Christ crucified by veiling it, along with the images of the saints, for the duration of Passiontide. The veils are of violet, the color of penance. This reminds us of the sufferings of Christ, together with our need for penance, in reparation for our sins. This veiling also intimates the deep sorrow which the Church feels over the suffering and death of her Divine Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

I’d like to share with you a beautiful, brief reflection on this time of Passiontide by Duncan Stroik, who is the architect for our CHRIST AT THE CENTER sanctuary beautification project. In a recent editorial in Sacred Architecture magazine, which he publishes and edits, Professor Stroik wrote:

“In order to better prepare for Easter, we fast from images and sometimes instruments. For visual and aural people, this is a powerful shock to the system. Statues, paintings, and, in some places, even crucifixes are covered with purple fabric. The saints are there, in form, but we cannot see their image—they are veiled in mystery. It is the last penance of Lent: the giving up of images, which are, theologically, windows into the divine.

“And then with the Triduum, we do not just fast but we also strip the altar in preparation for the Crucifixion; and on Good Friday we come to church, but there is no Mass.

“All of this makes the Easter Vigil more spectacular: the Easter fire in darkness and then a single candle leading to a church full of candlelight and the reappearance of the saints, beautiful flowers, and iconography of the Resurrection.

Through God’s grace and our intentional response, let us all live these privileged days of Passiontide intensely and well. “

Click to read Catholic News Agency story on “Where Palms Come From”