Palm Sunday begins Holy Week. Probably on no other day in the church year are joy and suffering as close together as here. Katholisch.de explains liturgy and customs on Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday has the beginning and the end in it. During the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus is celebrated like a king. A miraculous, peaceful ruler, whose fate is already sealed – the Holy Week and thus the days of the Passion and death of Jesus are imminent. But this king of the Jews, who has ridden on a donkey into the city, faces this unimaginable task. The evangelist Matthew (21: 7-11) describes how the disciples brought a donkey to Jesus and put him on it. “Many people from the crowd spread their clothes on the way, others cut branches off the trees and scattered them on the way,” Matthäus writes enthusiastically. But the crowds that preceded him and followed him shouted:
Hosanna the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in height!
Quote: Matthew (21.7-11)
When Jesus moved into Jerusalem, according to Matthew, the whole city started moving: “Who is this?” They asked. But the crowd said, “This is the prophet Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee!”
Keep the memory alive
Just as then, Christians around the world celebrate Palm Sunday, the sixth and last Sunday of Lent; sometimes even with a live donkey. The faithful often meet first in front of the church to bless the palm or olive branches. Where palm trees do not grow, take catkins – depending on the region, these branches come from maple, birch, beech, boxwood, willow, hazelnut or juniper berry. After the blessing of the branches, the Christians enter the church in a palm procession. At Mass, the priest proclaims for the first time in Holy Week the message of the approaching suffering and death of Jesus.
Crafting instructions for a Biedermeier palm tree.
For as the Evangelist John (12: 12-24) points out, the “King of Israel” knows that the days of his reign on earth will be brief. John quotes Jesus: “The hour has come when the Son of Man will be glorified.” Truly, truly, I say to you, if the grain of wheat does not fall into the earth and die, it will remain alone, but if it dies, it will bring much fruit. ” Jesus knows that his kingdom will not be the earth but heaven. He says, “He who loves his life loses it, and who hates his life in this world will save it for everlasting life.”
Also on Palm Sunday shows how life and death are inseparable. The Christians sing to the son of David a “Hosanna in the height”, praise him as a king, but also as a savior. In the processional hymn of Theodulf of Orleans of the ninth century, it says, “There was the rejoicing in you, / as you were about to suffer, / you, the king of the world, / here we bring our praise.”
Tradition since the 8th century
After the mass, Christians take home their consecrated palm branches and put them behind a crucifix above the door frame – this is to provide special protection for the house and its inhabitants. In some places people also attach their branches to holy pictures, house altars or mirrors. The pinning is an old custom, it is to bless people and to remember the new life of Christ. Sometimes the branches are beautifully decorated at Easter. In the following year, the branches are burned in some regions and the ash is again used for the ash cross. The circle closes.
In Europe, the Palm processions have been known since the 8th century. With great effort, the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem was reconstructed. The faithful could thus combine the beginning of Holy Week with a special experience. Later, life-size Christ figures were often carried on donkeys in Germany, illustrating the event even more. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the so-called Palmeselprozessionen were widespread in Germany in many places.
Palm branches have long been regarded as objects of protection, salvation and blessing. Thus, in the Rhineland, the dead are blessed at the funeral with a palm bouquet soaked in holy water. Many people bring the freshly blessed palm branches not only to their homes, but also to bedridden neighbors – or to their dead in the cemetery.