By Christina I. Hermoso
Christendom marks Palm Sunday today, the first day of the Holy Week and a Catholic Church leader reminds the faithful of Palm Sunday’s message – “to welcome Jesus in our lives.”
“God is always visiting us. He comes to us. This is the message of Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. All welcome Him. All rejoice, happy with His coming. Whatever we are in, whoever we are in the society, God comes to us. He wants us to experience Him, have an encounter with Him. And so, let us welcome Jesus in our lives,”said Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos .
“To welcome Jesus is to open our hands, waving for Him. Let us not greet Him with a closed fist which is threatening and can hurt, which cannot hold, cannot give nor receive. Let us welcome Jesus with open hands that can help, can share, and serve,” said the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of thePhilippines – Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People.
“Let us welcome Jesus with palms in our hands. Palm signifies victory. Palm connotes peace. Let us welcome Jesus with peaceful hearts, not artificial gestures nor fake news, not with guns nor grease money. Let us offer out fellow Filipinos with a palm of peace to help them overcome sins and not to lead them to shame and scandal. We welcome them to rise up to a new life, and to victory over illegal drugs, crimes, and human trafficking,” Santos added.
“This Holy Week, let us welcome Jesus with an open hand and heart as we say to one another, ‘Come in the name of Jesus,’ the bishop said.
Last journey on earth
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is considered the world over as a Sunday of the highest rank. As has been the tradition, church goers will waive their palm fronds (palaspas) as the priest makes his way inside the church in reenactment of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem astride a donkey, where a huge jubilant crowd crying “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” welcomed the Son of God.
Priests in red vestments — the color of blood to symbolize the supreme redemptive sacrifices of Christ for mankind — will leadthe principal religious ceremonies of the day that include the procession, the blessing of palms, followed by the Eucharistic celebration, and during the mass, the singing of the Passion of Christ, which recalls the final week of Jesus’ earthly journey.
The complete narrative of the Lord’s Passion is traditionally read “as a reminder of the complete obedience and submissionof Christ to the will of the Father which, through His Holy Cross, brought salvation to the world.”
On church altars, branches of “palaspas” will be placed between the candlesticks instead of flowers. The blessing of palms follows a ritual similar to that of the mass. Used as a sacramental by the faithful, the palm fronds are traditionally brought home and preserved in a prominent place like altars, doors or window sills in the belief that “theright hand of God will expel all adversities, bless, and protect those who dwell in them who have been redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ.” The palm fronds are brought back to the church a year later to be burned for the Ash Wednesday service.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The branches of palms signify victory over death and the advent of spiritual victory through Christ. The death and resurrection of Christ bring us closer to eternal life as man becomes one with God andGod becomes one again with man.”
In different parts of the Christian world, particularly where palms are hard to obtain, branches of bushes and trees were used, including olive, box elder, spruce, andvarious willows.
In Rome, Italy, a large crowd is expected to gather at the Saint Peter’s Square, where Pope Francis is set to bless palm fronds as he leads the procession at 9:30 a.m., to be followed by a holymass. The faithful usually bring home the blessed olive and palm sprigs, as symbols of peace. The Holy Father is also set topray the Angelus and give the papal blessing at noon.
Meanwhile, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle will lead the Palm Sunday mass at the Manila Cathedral inIntramuros at 7 a.m. Some parishes will bless palm fronds early in the day. The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church) in Manila invites the faithful to bring their palm fronds as early as 4:30a.m. at Plaza Miranda for the traditional blessing, followed by a procession to the church for the holy mass.
Twelve men dressed as Christ’s apostles traditionally join the procession.
Reflect, ask forgiveness
Vice President Leni Robredo said the Holy Week is “the time to take stock of things” and urged Catholics to “reflect on things that matter.”
“Paminsan kasi sa frenzy ng pang-araw-araw natin na ginagawa, nakakalimutan natin iyong mas mahahalagang mga bagay (Sometimes, in the frenzy of what we do every day, we forget the more important things),” she said in an interview at the launch of the Albay Provincial Library Gender and Development Section in Legazpi City, Albay.
In her Lenten message, Robredo reminded Filipinos to “ask for forgiveness and renewal” from God during the Holy Week.
“It really is a time to bumalik doon sa anong mga bagay, iyong mahalaga. (reflect on the things, which are really important),” the Vice President said.(With a report from Raymund F. Antonio)