Today’s liturgical observance is officially called “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.” The name reflects the dual nature of the liturgy, as the Mass is preceded by a procession with palms in commemoration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, but the readings include one of the Gospel accounts (this year St. Mark’s) of his arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
My “inner Pharisee” is sometimes tempted to think that this pre-figuring of Good Friday before the fact is much like the practice of moving Ascension Thursday to a Sunday in order to catch people who can’t be bothered to show up in church on a week day, but that is not the case. Even if there weren't many people who have jobs that won’t allow participation in the Good Friday liturgy, or are kept away for other reasonable causes, there are good reasons to turn to the events of the Passion before the Triduum, and the practice goes back further than one might think. Prior to Vatican II the second Sunday before Easter was known as Passion Sunday (as is still the case, of course, in the Extraordinary Rite), which introduced the Passiontide, a two week period of more intense focus on the suffering and death of Jesus; in combining it with Palm Sunday, we have actually moved Passion Sunday a week closer to Good Friday. Christ’s self-sacrifice at Calvary is one of the most important events in the Liturgical Year, and really one of the most significant events in all of human history, so it is fitting that we don't just pass over it in a day or two. Placing the Passion at the center of this Sunday’s liturgy gives the direction for the rest of Holy Week, so that we’re already in the proper frame of mind before we reach the culminating events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday
Combining Passion Sunday with Palm Sunday also gives us an interesting and, I think, fruitful perspective on the events leading up to the Crucifixion. Very many, at least, of the people singing “hosanna” as Jesus rode into Jerusalem were not cheering for the real Jesus but for a fantasy Messiah who, they thought, would be a very worldly savior. Many of these same people, most likely, were calling for his crucifixion a few days later. Moving from the Palms to the Passion in the same liturgy helps drive home that reality for us, and our participation in both ends of the process reminds us (or should, at least) of our own complicity in the Crucifixion of Jesus (for more on this point, see my post “Palm Sunday: Who Are Those Cheering People?”).
Too often we try to take shortcuts to rewards of various kinds without doing the hard work that those rewards require; today we are reminded that if we want Christ as our King, we need to pick up our cross and follow him.
Shortly after I started blogging, I was invited by RAnn of This That and the Other Thing to participate in Sunday Snippets, a weekly Catholic link-swapping sort of thing. RAnn has recently hung up her snippetting hat after long and faithful service (thanks again, RAnn), but old habits die hard, and I’ve grown accustomed to compiling a Sunday Summary of the week’s bloggery. So, please feel free take a scroll through the links below: who knows? You might find something worth reading.
Tuesday – “Sins of the Fathers . . . And of Kings” The Christian burial (530 years late) of England’s Richard III got me thinking: how different would the past half-millenium have been if a couple of his fellow monarchs were less prone to sins of the flesh?
Wednesday – “Let It Be Done To Me According ToThy Word” The Annunciation Big things come from small beginnings.
Thursday – “History, Culture, and Narcissism” According to Albert Einstein, “God does not place dice with the World”. Nor does he with History: the Greco-Roman roots of Christendom are no accident.
Friday – “Abortion Myth #7” It’s easy to throw words around, but whose choice and whose body are questions the pro-abortion people would rather we didn’t ask.
Saturday - My penultimate music clip for Lent is “So Now My Jesus Is Taken Prisoner” from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion,
and - My final music clip for Lent is “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded” from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion