Palm Sunday has been celebrated since at least the 4th century, when the Spanish pilgrim nun Etheria described the Palm Sunday procession she saw in Jerusalem. Since then, Christian liturgies have tried to imitate as well as recall the events surrounding the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday processions nowadays often include the carrying of palm branches, reminding us of the palms laid down before Jesus as described by St Matthew (Matthew 21:8). The readings set for today, however, also take us forward through Holy Week to the Passion of Jesus. The reading from Isaiah (Isaiah 50: 4-9) forewarns us of the physical suffering of Jesus: ‘I gave my back to those who struck me’; and the passage from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians urges Christians to follow the example of Christ’s humility: ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus’. It is in the long Gospel passage that we hear the whole Passion narrative. This story is for our learning: we are challenged as we read or hear to enter into the experience of the Last Supper; of Gethsemane; of the arrest; of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus; and of the trials of Jesus before Caiaphas and Pilate. And then come the mocking of Jesus and his journey to Golgotha, the ‘place of the skull’. Matthew mercifully omits the detail of the Crucifixion; after having uttered his final cry of desolation, he tells us, Jesus ‘breathed his last’. It feels like the end of the story….
A prayer for today:
Lord Jesus Christ, you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant, and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation: give us the mind to follow you and to proclaim you as Lord and King, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
You may find the prayers and short services on the Church of England website (and downloadable onto your mobile or tablet) a good way to focus your thoughts in these difficult times. See: