Today, if ye shall hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.
Early in the morning of this day, Jesus sets our for Jerusalem, leaving Mary, his Mother, and the two sisters Martha and Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus, at Bethania. The Mother of Sorrows trembles at seeing her Son thus expose himself to danger, for his enemies are bent upon his destruction; but it is not Death, it is Triumph, that Jesus is to receive today in Jerusalem. The Messias, before being nailed to the Cross, is to be proclaimed King by the people of the great City; the little children are to make her streets echo with their Hosannas to the Son of David; and this in presence of the soldiers of Rome’s Emperor, and of the High Priests and Pharisees, the first, standing under the banner of their Eagles; the second, dumb with rage.
The Prophet Zachary had foretold this Triumph which the Son of Man was to receive a few days before his Passion, and which had been prepared for him from all eternity. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Sion! Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy King will come to thee; the Just and the Saviour. He is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.” (Zachariah 9:9) Jesus, knowing that the hour was come for the fulfillment of this prophecy, singles out two from the rest of his Disciples, and bids them lead to him an ass and her colt, which they would find not far off. He has reached Bethphage, on Mount Olivet. The two Disciples lose no time in executing the order given them by their divine Master; and the ass and the colt are soon brought to the place where He stands.
The holy Fathers have explained to us the mystery of these two animals. The ass represents the Jewish people, which had been long under the yoke of the Law; the colt, upon which, as the Evangelist says, no man yet hath sat, (Mark 11:2) is a figure of the Gentile world, which no one had ever yet brought into subjection. The future of these two people is to be decided in a few days hence: the Jews will be rejected, for having refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias; the Gentiles will take their place, be adopted as God’s people, and become docile and faithful.
The disciples spread their garments upon the colt; and our Saviour, that the prophetic figure might be fulfilled, sat upon him, (Mark 11:7, Luke 19:35) and advances towards Jerusalem. As soon as it was known that Jesus was near the City, the Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of those Jews, who had come, from all parts, to celebrate the feast of the Passover. They go out to meet our Lord, holding palm branches in their hands, and loudly proclaiming him to be King. (Luke 19:38) They that had accompanied Jesus from Bethania, join the enthusiastic crowd. Whilst some spread their garments on the way, others cut down boughs from the Palm-trees, and strewed them along the road. Hosanna is the triumphant cry, proclaiming to the whole city, that Jesus, the Son of David, has made His entrance as her King.
Thus did God, in His power over men’s hearts, procure a triumph for His Son, and in the very City, which, a few days after, was to clamour for His Blood. This day was one of glory to our Jesus, and the holy Church would have us renew, each year, the memory of this triumph of the Man-God. Shortly after the Birth of our Emmanuel, we saw the Magi coming from the extreme East, and looking in Jerusalem for the King of the Jews, to whom they intended offering their gifts and their adorations: but it is Jerusalem herself that now goes forth to meet this King. Each of these events is an acknowledgment of the Kingship of Jesus: the first, from the Gentiles; the second, from the Jews. Both were to pay Him this regal homage, before He suffered his Passion. The Inscription to be put upon the Cross, by Pilate’s order, will express the Kingly character of the Crucified: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Pilate, the Roman Governor, the pagan, the base coward, has been, unwittingly, the fulfiller of a prophecy; and when the enemies of Jesus insist on the Inscription being altered, Pilate will deign them no answer but this: “What I have written, I have written.” Today, it is the Jews themselves that proclaim Jesus to be their King: they will soon be dispersed, in punishment for their revolt against the Son of David; but Jesus is King, and will be so forever. Thus were literally verified the words spoken by the Archangel to Mary, when he announced to her the glories of the Child that was to be born of her: The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David, His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. (Luke 1:32) Jesus begins His reign upon the earth this very day; and though the first Israel is soon to disclaim His rule, a new Israel, formed from the faithful few of the old, shall rise up in every nation of the earth, and become the Kingdom of Christ, a kingdom such as no mere earthly monarch ever coveted in his wildest fancies of ambition.
This is the glorious Mystery which ushers in the Great Week, the Week of Dolours. Holy Church would have us give this momentary consolation to our heart, and hail our Jesus as our King. She has so arranged the Service of today, that it should express both joy and sorrow; joy, by uniting herself with the loyal Hosannas of the City of David; and sorrow, by compassionating the Passion of her Divine Spouse. The whole function is divided into three parts, which we will now proceed to explain.
The first is the blessing of the Palms, and we may have an idea of its importance by the solemnity used by the Church in this sacred rite. One would suppose that the Holy Sacrifice has begun, and is going to be offered up in honour of Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem. Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, even a Preface, are said as though we were, as usual, preparing for the immolation of the Spotless Lamb; but, after, the triple Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! the Church suspends these sacrificial formulas, and turns to the Blessing of the Palms. The Prayers she uses for this Blessing are eloquent and full of instruction; and, together, with the sprinkling with Holy Water and the Incensation, impart a virtue to these Branches, which elevates them to the supernatural order, and makes them means for the sanctification of our souls and the protection of our persons and dwellings. The Faithful should hold these Palms in their hands during the procession, and during the reading of the Passion at Mass, and keep them in their homes as an outward expression of their faith, and as a pledge of God’s watchful love.
It is scarcely necessary to tell our reader, that the Palms or Olive branches, thus blessed, are carried in memory of those wherewith the people of Jerusalem strewed the road, as our Saviour made his triumphant Entry; but a word on the antiquity of our ceremony will not be superfluous. It began very early in the East. It is probable, that as far as Jerusalem itself is concerned, the custom was established immediately after the Ages of Persecution. St. Cyril, who was Bishop of that City in the 4th century, tells us, that the Palm-tree, from which the people cut the branches when they went out to meet our Saviour, was still to be seen in the vale of Cedron. (Catech. 10 versus fin.) Such a circumstance would naturally suggest an annual commemoration of the great event. In the following century, we find this ceremony established, not only in the churches of the East, but also in the monasteries of Egypt and Syria. At the beginning of Lent, many of the holy monks obtained permission from their Abbots to retire into the desert, that they might spend the sacred season in strict seclusion; but they were obliged to return to their monasteries for Palm Sunday, as we learn from the Life of St. Euthymius, written by his disciple Cyril. (Act SS. Jan 20.) In the West, the introduction of this ceremony was more gradual: the first trace we find of it, is in the Sacramentary of St, Gregory, that is, the end of the 6th, or the beginning of the 7th, century. When the faith had penetrated into the North, it was not possible to have palms or olive branches; they were supplied by branches from other trees. The beautiful prayers used in the Blessing, and which are based on the mysteries expressed by the palm and olive trees, are still employed in the blessing of our willow, box, or other branches; and rightly, for they represent the symbolical ones which nature has denied us.
The second of today’s ceremonies is the Procession, which comes immediately after the Blessing of the Palms. It represents our Saviour’s journey to Jerusalem, and His Entry into the City. To make it the more expressive, the Branches that have just been blessed, are held in the hand during it. With the Jews, to hold a branch in one’s hand, was a sign of joy. The Divine Law had sanctioned the practice, as we read in the following passage from Leviticus, where God commands His people to keep the Feast of Tabernacles: And you shall take to you, on the first day, the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. (Leviticus 23:40) It was, therefore, to testify their delight at seeing Jesus enter within their walls, that the inhabitants, even the little children, of Jerusalem, went forth to meet Him with Palms in their hands. Let us, also, go before our King of, singing our Hosannas to Him as the Conqueror of death, and the Liberator of His people. during the Middle Ages, it was the custom, in many churches, to carry the Book of the Holy Gospels in this procession. The Gospel contains the words of Jesus Christ, and was considered to represent Him. The Procession halted at an appointed place, or Station: the deacon then opened the sacred Volume, and sang from it the passage which describes our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. This done, the Cross, which, up to this moment, was veiled, was uncovered; each of the clergy advanced towards it, venerated it, and placed at its foot a small portion of the palm he held in his hand. The Procession then returned, preceded by the Cross, which was left unveiled, until all had re-entered the Church. In England and Normandy, as far back as the 11th century, there was practiced a holy ceremony, which represented, even more vividly than the one we have just been describing, the scene that was witnessed on this day at Jerusalem: the Blessed Sacrament was carried in procession. The heresy of Berengarius, against the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, had been broached about that time; and, the tribute of triumphant joy here shown to the Sacred Host, was a distant preparation for the feast and procession, which were to be instituted at a later period.
A touching ceremony was also practiced in Jerusalem, during today’s procession, and, like those just mentioned, was intended to commemorate the event related by the Gospel. The whole community of the Franciscans, (to whose keeping the Holy Places are entrusted) went in the morning to Bethphage. There, the father guardian of the Holy Land, vested in pontifical robes, mounted upon an ass, on which garments were laid. Accompanied by the friars and the Catholics of Jerusalem, all holding Palms in their hands, he entered the city, and alighted at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Mass was celebrated with all possible solemnity.
This beautiful ceremony, which dated from the period of the Latin Kingdom in Jerusalem, has been forbidden, for now almost two hundred years, by the Turkish authorities of the city.
We have mentioned these different usages, as we have done others on similar occasions, in order to aid the faithful to the better understanding of the several mysteries of the Liturgy. In the present instance, they will learn, that, in today’s procession the Church wishes us to honour Jesus Christ as though He were really among us, and were receiving the humble tribute of our loyalty. Let us lovingly go forth to meet this our King, our Saviour, who comes to visit the Daughter of Sion, as the prophet has just told us. He is in our midst; it is to Him that we pay honour with our Palms; — let us give Him our hearts too. He comes that he may be our King; let us welcome Him as such, and fervently cry out to Him: Hosanna to the Son of David!
At the close of the Procession, a ceremony takes place, which is full of the sublimest symbolism. On returning to the church, the doors are found to be shut. The triumphant Procession is stopped; but the songs of joy are continued. A hymn in honour of Christ our King is sung with its joyous chorus; and at length, the subdeacon strikes the door with the staff of the cross; the door opens, and the people, preceded by the clergy, enter the church, proclaiming the praise of Him, who is our Resurrection and our Life.
This ceremony is intended to represent the entry of Jesus into that Jerusalem, of which the earthly one was but the figure — the Jerusalem of heaven, which has been opened for us by our Saviour. The sin of our first parents had shut it against us; but Jesus, the King of glory, opened its gates by His Cross, to which every resistance yields. Let us, then, continue to follow in the footsteps of the Son of David, for He is also the Son of God, and He invites us to share his Kingdom with Him. Thus, by the procession, which is commemorative of what happened on this day, the Church raises up our thoughts to the glorious mystery of the Ascension, whereby heaven was made the close of Jesus’ mission on earth. Alas! the interval between these two triumphs of our Redeemer are not all days of joy; and no sooner is our procession over, than the Church, that had laid aside, for a moment, the weight of her grief, falls back into sorrow and mourning.
The third part of today’s Service is the offering of the Holy Sacrifice. The portions that are sung by the choir are expressive of the deepest desolation; and the history of our Lord’s Passion, which is to be now read by anticipation, gives to the rest of the day that character of sacred gloom, which we all know so well. For the last five or six centuries, the Church has adopted a special chant for this narrative of the holy Gospel. The historian, or the Evangelist, relates the events in a tone that is at once grave and pathetic; the words of our Saviour are sung to a solemn yet sweet melody, which strikingly contrasts with the high dominant of the several other interlocutors and the Jewish populace. During the singing of the Passion, the Faithful should hold their Palms in their hands, and, by this emblem of triumph, protest against the insults offered to Jesus by His enemies. As we listen to each humiliation and suffering, all of which were endured out of love for us, let us offer Him our Palm as to our dearest Lord and King. When should we be more adoring, than when He is most suffering ?
These are the leading features of this great day. According to our usual plan, we will add to the Prayers and Lessons any instructions that seem to be needed.
This Sunday, besides its liturgical and popular appellation of Palm Sunday, has had several other names. Thus, it was called Hosanna Sunday, in allusion to the acclamation wherewith the Jews greeted Jesus on his Entry into Jerusalem. Our forefathers used also to call it Pascha Floridum, because the Feast of the Pasch (or Easter), which is but eight days off, is today in bud, so to speak, and the Faithful could begin from this Sunday to fulfill the precept of Easter Communion. It was in allusion to this name, that the Spaniards, having on the Palm Sunday of 1513, discovered the peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico, called it Florida. We also find the name of Capitilavium given to this Sunday, because during those times, when it was the custom to defer till Holy Saturday the baptism of infants born during the preceding months, (where such a delay entailed no danger), the parents used, on this day, to wash the heads of these children, out of respect to the Holy Chrism wherewith they were to be anointed. Later on, this Sunday was, at least in some Churches, called the Pasch of the competents, that is, of the catechumens, who were admitted to Baptism: they assembled today in the Church, and received a special instruction on the symbol, which had been given to them in the previous scrutiny. In the Gothic Church of Spain, the symbol was not given till today. The Greeks call this Sunday Baϊphoros, that is, Palm-Bearing.
THE BLESSING OF THE PALMS
It begins with the chanting the following Antiphon, which serves as an Introit.
Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. O King of Israel! Hosanna in the highest!
The priest then sums up, in the following prayer, the petitions of the faithful. This is what he asks for his people: that after this short life is over, they may come to that eternal kingdom, which has been prepared for them by Jesus’ Death and Resurrection.
℣. The Lord be with you. ℟. And with thy spirit.
LET US PRAY
O God, whom to love is true righteousness, multiply in our hearts the gifts of thy holy grace; and since, by the death of thy only Son, thou hast made us to hope for those things which we believe, grant that by his resurrection, we may arrive at the happy end of our journey. Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. ℟. Amen.
After this prayer, the subdeacon chants a passage from the Book of Exodus, which relates how the people of God, after they have gone forth from Egypt, pitch their tents at Elim, beneath the shade of seventy palm-trees, where also are twelve fountains. Whilst here, they are told by Moses that God is about to send them manna from heaven, and that, on the very next morning, their hunger shall be appeased. These were figures of what is now given to the Christian people. The Faithful, by a sincere conversion, have separated themselves from the Egypt of a sinful world. They are offering the palms of their loyalty and love to Jesus, their King. The fountains typify the Baptism, which, in a few days hence, is to be administered to our catechumens. These fountains are twelve in number; the twelve articles of the symbol of our faith were preached to the world by the twelve apostles. And finally, on the Morning of Easter Day, Jesus, the Bread of life, the heavenly Manna, will arise from the tomb, and manifest His glory to us.
Lesson from the Book of Exodus 15:27-16:7
In those days, the children of Israel came into Elim, where there were twelve fountains of water, and seventy palm-trees; and they encamped by the waters. And they set forward from Elim; and all the multitude of the children of Israel came into the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, and fifteenth day of the second month after they came out of the land of Egypt. And all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them: Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat over the flesh pots, and ate bread to the full. Why have you brought us into this desert, that you might destroy all the multitude with famine? And the Lord said to Moses: Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you; let the people go forth, and gather what is sufficient for every day, that I may prove them whether they will walk in my law, or no. But the sixth day let them provide for to bring in, and let it be double to what they were wont to gather every day. And Moses and Aaron said to the children of Israel: In the evening you shall know that the Lord hath brought you forth out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord.
After this Lesson, the choir sings one of the two following Responsories, which commemorate the Passion of our Lord.
℟. The chief priest therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council, and said: What are we doing, for this man performeth many wonders? If we let him go on thus, all will believe in him. * And the Romans will come and destroy both our country and people.
℣. But one of them, named Caiphas, being the high priest of that year, said to them: It is for your interest that one man should die for the people, and not the whole nation perish. Therefore from that day they devised to kill him, saying: * And the Romans will come and destroy both our country and people.
℟. Jesus prayed unto his Father on Mount Olivet: O Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. * The spirit indeed is ready, but the flesh is weak. Thy will be done.
℣. Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. * The spirit indeed is ready, but the flesh is weak. Thy will be done.
The Deacon then chants, from the Gospel of St. Matthew, the history of Jesus’ triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. The Palms of the New Testament entwine with those of the Old, in honour of the Man-God, who is the connecting link of both.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew 21:1-9
At that time: Jesus drawing near to Jerusalem, and being come to Bethphage, at mount Olivet, he sent two of his disciples, and said to them: Go ye into the village that is over against you, and immediately you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her; loose them and bring them to me. And if any man shall say any thing to you, say ye, that the Lord hath need of them; and forthwith he will let them go. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: Tell ye the daughter of Sion: Behold, thy King cometh to thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of her that is used to the yoke. And the disciples going, did as Jesus commanded them; and they brought the ass and the colt, and laid their garments upon them, and made him sit thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way, and others cut down boughs from the trees, and strewed them in the way; and the multitudes that went before and that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!
And now the mystery-speaking Palms are to receive the Church’s blessing. The Priest begins by two scriptural allusions: the first is to Noah, who received an olive-branch, when the waters of the deluge had subsided; the second is to Moses, whose people, after quitting Egypt, encamped under the seventy palm-trees. Then, in the solemn tone of the Preface, he calls upon all creatures to give praise to the adorable Name of Jesus, for whom we are preparing the homage of our devoted love. Let us respond to the invitation, and sing with all our hearts: Holy! Holy! Holy! — Hosanna in excelsis!
℣. The Lord be with you. ℟. And with thy spirit.
LET US PRAY
Increase, O God, the faith of them that hope in thee, and mercifully hear the prayers of thy suppliants; let thy manifold mercy come upon us, and let these branches of palm-trees, or olive-trees, be blessed; and as in a figure of the Church thou didst multiply Noah going out of the ark, and Moses going out of Egypt with the children of Israel, so let us, carrying palms and branches of olive-trees, go and meet Christ with good works, and enter through him into eternal joys. Who loveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God,
℣. For ever and ever. ℟. Amen.
℣. The Lord be with you. ℟. And with thy spirit.
℣. Lift up your hearts. ℟. We have them fixed on God.
℣. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. ℟. It is meet and just.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, always and in all places to give thee thanks, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God, who art glorious in the assembly of thy saints. For thy creatures serve thee, because they acknowledge thee for their only Creator and God, And the whole creation praiseth thee, and thy saints bless thee, because they confess with freedom, before the kings and powers of this world, the great name of thy Only Begotten Son. Before whom the Angels and Archangels, the Thrones, and Dominations, stand, and with all the troops of the heavenly host, sing a hymn to thy glory, saying without ceasing:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!
The Prayers, which ‘now follow, explain the mystery of the Palms, and draw down the blessing of God upon both them and the Faithful who receive and keep them with proper dispositions.
℣. The Lord be with you. ℟. And with thy spirit.
LET US PRAY
We beseech thee, Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God, that thou wouldst be pleased to bless and sanctify this creature of the olive tree, which thou madest to shoot out of the substance of the wood, and which the dove, returning to the ark, brought in its bill; that whoever receiveth it, may find protection of soul and body, and that it may prove, Lord, a saving remedy, and a sacred sign of thy grace. Through, etc. ℟. Amen.
LET US PRAY
O God, who gatherest what is dispersed, and preservest what is gathered; who didst bless the people, that carried boughs to meet Jesus; bless also these branches of the palm-tree and olive-tree, which thy servants take with faith in honour of thy name; that into whatever place they may be carried, the inhabitants of that place may obtain thy blessing, and thy right hand preserve from all adversity, and protect those that have been redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son. Who liveth, etc. ℟. Amen.
LET US PRAY
O God, who by the wonderful order of thy providence wouldst, even in insensible things, show us the manner of our salvation; grant, we beseech thee, that the devout hearts of thy faithful may understand to their benefit the mystical meaning of that ceremony, when the multitude, by direction from heaven, going this day to meet our Redeemer, strewed under his feet palms and olive-branches. The palms represent his triumph over the prince of death; and the olive-branches proclaim, in some manner, the coming of a spiritual unction. For that pious multitude then knew, what was by them signified, that our Redeemer, compassionating the misery of mankind, was to fight for the life of the whole world with the prince of death; and to triumph over him by his own death. And therefore in that action they made use of such things, as might declare both the triumph of his victory, and the riches of his mercy. We also with a firm faith, retaining both the ceremony and its signification, humbly beseech thee, holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God, through the same Lord Jesus Christ, that we, whom thou hast made his members, gaining by him, and in him, a victory over the empire of death, may deserve to be partakers of his glorious resurrection. Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. ℟. Amen.
LET US PRAY
God, who by an olive branch didst command the dove to proclaim peace to the world; sanctify, we beseech thee, by thy heavenly benediction, these branches of olives and other trees; that they may be serviceable to all thy people unto salvation. Through, etc. ℟. Amen.
LET US PRAY
Bless, O Lord, we beseech thee, these branches of the palm-tree, or olive-tree; and grant that what thy people this day act corporeally for thy honour, they may perform the same spiritually with the greatest devotion, by gaining a victory over their enemy, and ardently loving the work of thy mercy. Through, etc. ℟. Amen.
The Priest completes the Blessing of the Palms by sprinkling them with Holy Water and thurifying them with Incense. After which, he adds the following Prayer.
℣. The Lord be with you. ℟. And with thy spirit.
LET US PRAY
O God, who, for our salvation, didst send into this world thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord that he might humble himself to our condition, and call us back to thee: for whom also, as he was coming to Jerusalem, to fulfill the scriptures, a multitude of faithful people, with a zealous devotion, spread their garments together with palm branches in the way: grant, we beseech thee, that we may prepare him the way of faith, out of which the stone of offence and the rock of scandal being removed, our actions may flourish with branches of righteousness, so that we may be worthy to follow his steps. Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. ℟. Amen.
After this prayer, the Priest distributes the Palms to the Faithful.* During the distribution, the Choir reminds us, by the two following Antiphons, of the enthusiasm of the little children of Jerusalem, who, with their Palms in their hands, sang their loud Hosanna to the Son of David. (*Note: In receiving the Palm, the Faithful should kiss first the Palm itself, and then the Priest’s hand)
The Hebrew children carrying olive-branches met the Lord, crying out, and saying: Hosanna in the highest!
The Hebrew children spread their garments in the way, and cried out, saying: Hosanna to the Son of David: blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!
As soon as the distribution is over, the Priest concludes this first part of the Service by the following Prayer,
℣. The Lord be with you. ℟. And with thy spirit.
LET US PRAY
O Almighty and Eternal God, who wouldst have our Lord Jesus Christ ride on the colt of an ass, and didst inspire the crowds of people to spread their garments, and branches of trees in the way, and to sing Hosanna to his praise: grant, we beseech thee, that we may imitate their innocence, and deserve to partake of their merits. Through the same Christ our Lord. ℟. Amen.
The priest having blessed the incense — which, according to the custom of the Church, always heads a procession and sheds its perfume along the path that is to be taken — the deacon turns towards the people, and gives the signal for departure, with these words:
Let us proceed in peace.
The Choir answers:
In the name of Christ. Amen.
The Procession then advances, the Clergy and people holding the Palms in their hands. The Choir chants the following Antiphons, in honour of Jesus, the King of Israel.
When the Lord drew nigh to Jerusalem, he sent two of his disciples, saying: Go ye into the village that is over against you; and you will find the colt of an ass tied, upon which no man hath sat; loose it, and bring it to me. If anyone ask you any questions, say: The Lord wanteth it. They untied, and brought it to Jesus, and laid their garments upon it; and he seated himself on it. Others spread their garments in the way; others cut branches from the trees; and those who followed, cried out, Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; and blessed be the reign of our father David! Hosanna in the highest! Son of David, have mercy on us!
When the people heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm-branches, and went out to meet him; and the children cried out, saying: This is he, who is come for the salvation of the people. He is our salvation, and the redemption of Israel. How great is he, whom the Thrones and Dominations go out to meet! Fear not, O daughter of Sion: behold thy King Cometh to thee sitting on an ass’s colt, as it is written. Hail, O King, the Creator of the world, who art come to redeem us!
Six days before the solemnity of the Passover, when the Lord was coming into the city of Jerusalem, the children met him, and carried palm-branches in their hands; and they cried out with a loud voice saying: Hosanna in the highest: blessed art thou who art come in the multitude of thy mercy: Hosanna in the highest!
The multitude goeth out to meet their Redeemer with flowers and palms, and payeth the homage due to a triumphant conqueror: the Gentiles proclaim the Son of God: and their voices rend the skies in the praise of Christ: Hosanna in the highest!
Let us faithfully join with the angels and children, singing to the Conqueror of death: Hosanna in the highest!
A great multitude that was met together at the festival cried out to the Lord: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
The Procession is now on its return to the church: but it cannot enter, for the doors are shut. We have already explained the meaning of this part of the ceremony. Immediately, there are heard voices within the holy place; they are singing the praises of Christ, our King and Saviour. These chanters represent the holy Angels in heaven, who are greeting the Entry of Jesus into the eternal Jerusalem. Outside the Church, there stands the choir, re-echoing the hymn of triumph; but it is man celebrating the Entry of the Son of David into the earthly Jerusalem. The two Choirs are thus kept separated from each other, until, at length, the victorious Cross throws open the door, which represents the gate of heaven, and unites the Church militant with the Church triumphant. The hymn which is sung during this ceremony, was composed by Theodulph, Bishop of Orleans, when prisoner at Angers, by order of Louis the Good. The Church of Rome, by her using the first six stanzas of this short poem, has immortalized it throughout the world.
The Chanters within the Church begin the first stanza, which is repeated by the Choir without, not only after this, but also after each of the following five stanzas.
Glory, praise, and honour be to thee, Christ, our King, our Saviour! to whom the innocent children sang their fervent Hosanna. ℟. Glory, praise, etc.
Thou art the King of Israel, the glorious Son of David! Blessed art thou, our King! that comest in the name of the Lord. ℟. Glory, praise, etc.
The whole heavenly host, in the highest heavens above, and men on earth, and all created things, praise thee. ℟. Glory, praise, etc.
The Hebrew people, with Palms, went forth to meet thee: behold! we, too, present ourselves before thee, with our prayers, desires, and hymns. ℟. Glory, praise, etc.
They offered the tribute of their praise to thee, when thou wast about to suffer; we sing our hymn to thee seated on thy throne. ℟. Glory, praise, etc.
They were pleasing to thee; grant that our devotion may also please thee, dear and merciful King! to whom all is pleasing that is good. ℟. Glory, praise, etc.
As soon as the choir has sung its Response to the last stanza, the subdeacon knocks with the cross at the door, which is immediately opened. In some places, it is the celebrant himself who performs this ceremony, and whilst doing it, he recites the words of the 23rd Psalm, in which David celebrates the entrance of our Redeemer into heaven, on the day of His Ascension.
The Procession then enters the Church, singing the following responsory:
℟. As our Lord entered the holy city, the Hebrew children declaring the resurrection of life, * With palm-branches, cried out: Hosanna in the highest!
℣. When the people heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they went out to meet him. * With palm-branches, cried out: Hosanna in the highest!
The Station, at Rome, is in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, the Mother and Mistress of all churches. The Papal function, however, now takes place at Saint Peter’s; but the usual indulgences are still granted to those who visit the archbasilica.
The Mass of this Sunday retains no vestige of the joy, which characterised the ceremony of the Palms. The Introit is taken from the 21st Psalm, in which the Royal Prophet expresses the anguish of soul suffered by Jesus on the Cross.
O Lord, keep not thy help far from me; look to my defense; save me from the lion’s mouth, and rescue me in my distress, from the horns of unicorns.
Ps. O God, my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me? They are my sins that keep salvation far from me.
Lord, keep not, etc.
In the Collect, the Church prays that we may Lave grace to imitate the patience and humility of our Saviour. Jesus suffers and humbles Himself for us; it is but just that we should work out our salvation by following His example, that we should suffer, and be humble.
Almighty and Eternal God, who wouldst have our Saviour become man, and suffer on a cross, to give mankind an example of humility; mercifully grant, that we may improve by the example of his patience, and partake of his resurrection. Through the same, etc.
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Philippians 2:5-11
Brethren: For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him and hath given him a name which is above all names; that in the Name of Jesus (here, all kneel), every knee shall bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of the Father.
In obedience to the wishes of the Church, we have knelt down at those words of the Apostle, where he says, that every knee should bow at the Holy Name of Jesus. If there be one time of the Year rather than another, when the Son of God has a right to our fervent adorations, it is this Week, when we see Him insulted in His Passion. Not only should His Sufferings excite us to tender compassion; we should, also, keenly resent the insults that are heaped upon this Jesus of ours, this God of infinite Majesty. Let us strive, by our humble homage, to make Him amends for the indignities He suffered in atonement for our pride.
Let us unite with the holy Angels, who, witnessing what He has gone through out of love for man, prostrate themselves, in profoundest adoration, at the sight of His humiliations.
In the Gradual, the Church makes use of the words of the Royal Prophet, who foretells the future glories of the victim that dies on Calvary; but he also confesses, that the success permitted to the enemies of Jesus had well nigh shaken his confidence.
Thou hast held me by my right hand, and by thy will thou hast conducted me; and with glory thou hast received me.
℣. How good is the God of Israel, to them that are of a right heart! But my feet were almost moved, my steps had well nigh slipped, because I had a zeal on sinners, seeing the prosperity of sinners.
The Tract consists of several verses taken from the 22nd Psalm, the last words of which were spoken by our Redeemer on the Cross. So clear and explicit are the words of this Psalm, that it might almost be called a history, as well as a prophecy, of the Passion.
O God, my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me?
℣. Far from my salvation are the words of my sins.
℣. O my God, I shall cry by day, and thou wilt not hear; and by night, and it shall not be imputed as folly in me.
℣. But thou dwellest in the holy place, thou the praise of Israel!
℣. In thee have our fathers hoped: they hoped, and thou hast delivered them.
℣. They cried out to thee, and they were saved: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
℣. But I am a worm, and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people.
℣. All they that saw me, have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head.
℣. He hoped in the Lord, (say they) let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighted in him.
℣. They considered me, and viewed me attentively: they divided my garments among them, and cast lots for my vest.
℣. Deliver me from the lion’s mouth: and my lowness from the horns of the unicorns.
℣. Ye that fear the Lord, praise him: O all ye of the seed of Jacob, magnify him.
℣. A people that is to come, shall be declared the Lord’s: and the heavens shall publish his justice,
℣. To a people to be born, whom the Lord hath made.
It is now time that we should hear the history of our Saviour’s Passion: but, in order that we may show both heaven and earth that we are not scandalized, as were the disciples, at the sight of His apparent weakness and the triumph of His enemies, we hold in our hands the Palms, wherewith we have been proclaiming Him as our King.
The Church reads, on four different days of this week, the four Evangelists’ narration of the Passion. She begins with that of St. Matthew, who was the first to write the Gospel to express the sorrow which fills the hearts of the faithful, the acolytes do not carry the lights, nor is the Book incensed. Omitting the customary salutation, the deacon, who is to take the part of the Evangelist, at once begins the mournful history of our Lord’s Sufferings and Death.
THE PASSION AND GOSPEL
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew 26-27
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: You know that after two days shall be the Pasch, and the Son of man shall be delivered up to be crucified. Then were gathered together the chief priests and ancients of the people into the court of the High Priest, who was called Caiphas; and they consulted together, that by subtlety they might apprehend Jesus, and put him to death. But they said: Not on the Festival day, lest perhaps there should be a tumult amongst the people.
And when Jesus was in Bethania, in the house of Simon the Leper, there came to him a woman having an alabaster-box of precious ointment, and poured it on his head as he was at table. And the disciples seeing it, had indignation, saying: To what purpose is this waste? For this might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. And Jesus knowing it, said to them: Why do you trouble this woman? For she has wrought a good work upon me. For the poor you have always with you, but me you have not always. For she, in pouring this ointment upon my body, hath done it for my burial. Amen, I say to you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done, shall be told for a memory of her.
Then went one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, to the chief priests and said to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? But they appointed him thirty pieces of silver. And from thenceforth he sought an opportunity to betray him. And on the first day of the Azymes, the disciples came to Jesus, saying: Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Pasch? But Jesus said: Go ye into the city to a certain man, and say to him, The Master saith my time is near at hand. I will keep the Pasch at any house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus appointed to them, and they prepared the Pasch.
Now when it was evening, he sat down with his twelve disciples; and while they were eating, he said: Amen, I say to you, that one of you is about to betray me. And they being very much troubled, began everyone to say: Is it I, Lord? But he answering, said: He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, he shall betray me. The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him; but woe to that man, by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed. It were better for him, if that man had not been born. And Judas, that betrayed him, answering said: Is it I, Rabbi? He saith to him: Thou hast said it.
And while they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke, and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat; this is my body. And taking the chalice he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this; for this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many for the remission of sins. And I say to you, I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father.
And a hymn being said, they went out into mount Olivet. Then Jesus said to them: All you shall be scandalized in me this night. For it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be dispersed.” But after I shall be risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. And Peter answering said to him: Although all shall be scandalized in thee, I will never be scandalized. Jesus said to him: Amen, I say to thee, that in this night, thou wilt deny me thrice. Peter saith to him: Yea, though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee. And in like manner said all the disciples.
Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani; and he said to his disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder, and pray. And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to grow sorrowful, and to be sad. Then he said to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death; stay you here and watch with me. And going a little further he fell upon his face, praying, and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What! could you not watch one hour with me? Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Again the second time he went and prayed, saying: My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done. And he cometh again, and findeth them sleeping; for their eyes were heavy. And leaving them, he went again; and he prayed the third time, saying the self-same words. Then he cometh to his disciples, and saith to them: sleep ye now, and take your rest; behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go: behold he is at hand that will betray me.
As he yet spoke, behold Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, sent from the Chief Priests and the ancients of the people. And he that betrayed him, gave them a sign, saying: Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he, hold him fast. And forthwith coming to Jesus, he said: Hail, Rabbi! And he kissed him. And Jesus said to him: Friend, whereto art thou come? Then they came up, and laid hands on Jesus, and held him. And behold one of them that were with Jesus, stretching forth his hand, drew out his sword; and striking the servant of the High Priest, cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him: Put up again thy sword into its place; for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and he will give me presently more than twelve legions of Angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done? In that same hour Jesus said to the multitude: You are come out as it were to a robber, with swords and clubs, to apprehend me. I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and you laid not hands on me. Now all this was done, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then the disciples all leaving him, fled.
But they holding Jesus, led him to Caiphas the High Priest, where the scribes and the ancients were assembled. And Peter followed him afar off, even to the court of the High Priest; and going in, he sat with the servants, that he might see the end. And the chief priests and the whole council sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death; and they found not, whereas many false witnesses had come in. And last of all there came two false witnesses; and they said: This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and after three days to rebuild it. And the High Priest rising up, said to him: Answerest thou nothing to the things which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the High Priest said to him: I adjure thee, by the living God, that thou tell us if thou be the Christ the Son of God. Jesus saith to him: Thou hast said it. Nevertheless I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the High Priest rent his garments, saying: He hath blasphemed, what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy: what think you? But they answering, said: He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffet him, and others struck his face with the palms of their hands, saying: Prophesy unto us, O Christ, who is he that struck you?
But Peter sat without in the court; and there came to him a servant-maid, saying: Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean. But he denied before them all, saying: I know not what thou sayest. And as he went out of the gate, another maid saw him, and she saith to them that were there: This man also was with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath: That I know not the man. And after a little while they came that stood by, and said to Peter: Surely thou also art one of them; for even thy speech doth discover thee. Then he began to curse and swear that he knew not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the words of Jesus which he had said: Before the cock crow, thou wilt deny me thrice. And going forth, he wept bitterly.
And when morning was come, all the chief priests and ancients of the people took counsel against Jesus, that they might put him to death. And they brought him bound, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, who betrayed him, seeing that he was condemned, repenting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and ancients, saying: I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. But they said: What is that to us? look thou to it. And casting down the pieces of silver in the Temple, he departed, and went and hanged himself with a halter. But the chief priests having taken the pieces of silver, said: It is not lawful to put them into the corbona, because it is the price of blood. And after they had consulted together, they bought with them the potter’s field, to be a burying-place for strangers. For this cause that field was called Haceldama, that is, the field of blood, even to this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was prized, whom they prized of the children of Israel. And they gave them unto the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed to me.”
And Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, saying: Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus saith to him: Thou sayest it. And when he was accused by the chief priests and ancients, he answered nothing. Then Pilate said to him: Dost thou not hear how great testimonies they allege against thee? And he answered him to never a word; so that the governor wondered exceedingly.
Now upon the solemn day the governor was accustomed to release to the people one prisoner, whom they would. And he had then a notorious prisoner, that was called Barabbas. They therefore being gathered together, Pilate said: Whom will you that I release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus that is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. And as he was sitting in the place of judgment, his wife sent to him, saying: Have thou nothing to do with that just man. For I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and ancient persuaded the people, that they should ask Barabbas, and make Jesus away. And the governor answering, said to them: Whether will you of the two to be released unto you? But they said, Barabbas. Pilate saith to them: What shall I do then with Jesus that is called Christ? They say all: Let him be crucified. The governor said to them: Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying: Let him be crucified.
And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made; taking water he washed his hands before the people, saying: I am innocent of the blood of this just man: look you to it. And the whole people answering, said: His blood be upon us, and upon our children. Then he released to them Barabbas: and having scourged Jesus delivered him unto them to be crucified.
The soldiers of the governor taking Jesus into the hall, gathered together unto him the whole band; and stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him. And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews. And spitting upon him, they took the reed, and struck his head. And after they had mocked him, they took off the cloak from him, and put on his own garments, and led him away to crucify him.
And going out they met a man of Cyrene, named Simon: hem they forced to take up the cross. and they came to the place that is called Golgotha, which is the place of Calvary. And they gave him wine to drink mingled with gall. And when he had tasted, he would not drink. And after they had crucified him, they divided his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “They divided my garments among them; and upon my vesture they cast lots;” and they sat and watched him. And they put over his head his cause written: This is Jesus the King of the Jews. Then were crucified with him two thieve; one on the right hand, and one on the left.
And they that passed by, blasphemed him, wagging their heads, and saying: Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days dost rebuild it, save thy own self: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. In like manner also the chief priests, with the scribes and ancients, mocking, said: He saved others; himself he cannot save: if he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God: let him now deliver him, if he will have him: for he said: I am the Son of God. And the self-same thing the thieves also that were crucified with him, reproached him with.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, “my God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” And some that stood there and heard, said: This man calleth Elias. And immediately one of them running, took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. And the others said: Let us see whether Elias will come and deliver him. and Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Here the deacon pauses, and honours the Death of our Lord and Saviour by a solemn act of adoration. All the faithful kneel down, and remain for some time in that position. In many places, it is the custom to prostrate, and kiss the ground. The deacon then resumes his narration.
And behold the veil of the Temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose; and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, came into the holy city and appeared to many. Now the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, having seen the earthquake and the things that were done, were sore afraid, saying: Indeed this was the Son of God. And there were there many women afar off who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: among whom was Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. And when it was evening, there came a certain rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate, and asked the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded that the body should be delivered. And Joseph taking the body, wrapped it up in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new monument, which he had hewn out in a rock. And lie rolled a great stone to the door of the monument, and went his way. And there was there Mary Magdalen, and the other Mary sitting over against the sepulchre.
That the Mass of this Sunday may not be deprived of that essential rite, which we call the Gospel, the Deacon reserves a portion of his narrative; and going to the Altar, he asks the Priest to bless the Incense. Which done, the Deacon himself also having received the Priest’s blessing, goes to the place appointed for chanting the Gospel; but the Acolytes do not carry their Lights. After having thurified the book, he thus closes the history of the Passion.
And the next day, which followed the day of preparation, the chief priest and the Pharisees came together to Pilate, saying: Sir, we have remembered, that that seducer said, while he was yet alive: After three days I will rise again. Command therefore the sepulchre to be guarded until the third day: lest perhaps his disciples come and steal him away, and say to the people he is risen from the dead: and the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said to them: You have a guard; go, guard it as you know. And they departing, made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting guards.
The Offertory is again a prophecy by David. It foretells the state of abandonment, to which our Saviour was to be reduced in the midst of all His sufferings, and the cruelty of His enemies, who would feed Him with gall and vinegar. Thus is He treated, who is preparing to give us His Body for our food, and His Blood for our drink.
My heart hath expected reproach and misery: and I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none: they gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
The Secret asks of God, that he would impart to his servants the twofold fruit of Jesus’ Passion: grace in this life, and glory in the next.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that what hath been mine, offered in the presence of thy Divine Majesty may procure us the grace of devotion, and effectually obtain a blessed eternity. Through, &c.
In the Communion-Anthem, the Church — after receiving into herself the life of Christ by the chalice of salvation, calls to our minds that other chalice, which Jesus was to drink, in order that He might gift us with immortality.
Father, if this cup cannot pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done.
The Church concludes the prayers of the Sacrifice she has just been offering, by asking the remission of sin for all her children, and that they may see fulfilled that longing of their souls — a share in the glorious Resurrection of Jesus.
May our vices, Lord, be destroyed, and our righteous desires fulfilled by the efficacy of these mysteries. Through, etc.
The psalms and antiphons are given earlier in the volume.
Brethren: For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man.
The hymn and versicle are given earlier in the volume.
ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT
For it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be dispersed: but after I shall be risen again, I will go before you into Galilee: there ye shall see me, saith the Lord.
LET US PRAY
O Almighty and Eternal God, who wouldst have our Saviour become man, and suffer on a cross, to give mankind an example of humility; mercifully grant that we may improve by the example of his patience, and partake of his resurrection. Through the same, etc.
Let us now go over in our minds the other events, which happened to our Divine Lord on this day of His solemn Entry into Jerusalem. St. Luke tells us, that it was on his approach to the City, that Jesus wept over it, and spoke these touching words: “If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace! But now they are hidden from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, and thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side, and heat thee flat to the ground, and thy children who are in thee; and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone; because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation.” (Luke 19:42-44)
A few days ago, we were reading in the holy Gospel, how Jesus wept over the tomb of Lazarus; today, He sheds tears over Jerusalem. At Bethania, His weeping was caused by the sight of bodily death, the consequence and punishment of sin; but this death is not irremediable: Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and he that believeth in Him, shall live. (John 11:25) Whereas, the state of the unfaithful Jerusalem is a figure of the death of the soul, and from this there is no resurrection, unless the soul, whilst time is given to her, return to the Author of life. Hence it is, that the tears shed by Jesus, over Jerusalem, are so bitter. Amidst the acclamations which greet His entry into the City of David, His heart is sad; for He sees that many of her inhabitants will not profit of the time of her visitation. Let us console the Heart of our Jesus, and be to Him a faithful Jerusalem.
The sacred historian tells us, that Jesus, immediately upon His entrance into the City, went to the temple, and cast out all them that sold and bought there. (Matthew 21:12) This was the second time that He had shown His authority in His Father’s House, and no one had dared to resist Him. The chief priests and Pharisees found fault with Him, and accused Him to His face of causing confusion by His entry into the city; but our Lord confounded them by the reply He made. It is thus, that in after ages, when it has pleased God to glorify His Son and the Church of His Son, the enemies of both have given vent to their rage; they protested against the triumph, but they could not stop it. But, when God, in the unsearchable ways of His wisdom, allowed persecution and trial to follow these periods of triumph, then did these bitter enemies redouble their efforts to induce the very people, that had cried Hosanna to the Son of David, to clamour for His being delivered up and crucified. They succeeded in fomenting persecution, but not in destroying the kingdom of Christ and His Church. The kingdom seemed, at times, to be interrupted in its progress; but the time for another triumph came. Thus will it be to the end; and then, after all these changes from glory to humiliation, and from humiliation to glory, the kingdom of Jesus and His Spouse will gain the last and eternal triumph over this world, which would not know the time of its visitation.
We learn from St. Matthew (Matthew 21:17) that our Saviour spent the remainder of this day at Bethania. His Blessed Mother and the house of Lazarus were comforted by His return. There was not a single offer of hospitality made to Him in Jerusalem, at least, there is no mention in the Gospel of any such being offered. We cannot help making the reflection, as we meditate upon this event of our Lord’s life: an enthusiastic reception is given to Him in the morning, He is proclaimed by the people as their King; but, when the evening of that day comes on, there is not one of all those thousands to offer Him food or lodging. In the Carmelite Monasteries of St. Teresa’s Reform, there is a custom, which has been suggested by this thought, and is intended as a reparation for this ingratitude shown to our Redeemer. A table is placed in the middle of the Refectory; and after the Community have finished their dinner, the food, which was placed upon that table, is distributed among the poor, and Jesus is honoured in them.
We give, as a conclusion to this day, a selection from the Hymn used by the Greek Church on Palm Sunday. It was written by the celebrated hymnographer, Cosmas of Jerusalem.
(In Dominica Palmarum.)
Lo! the God that sitteth, in the highest heavens, upon the Cherubim, and looketh down on lowly things, cometh, in glory and power; all creatures are full of his divine praise. Peace upon Israel, and Salvation to the Gentiles!
The souls of the just cried out with joy: Now is prepared a new Covenant for the world, and mankind is renewed by the sprinkling of the Divine Blood!
The people fell upon their knees, and, rejoicing with the Disciples, sang, with palms in their hands: Hosanna to the Son of David! Praiseworthy and blessed art thou, Lord God of our fathers!
The simple-hearted people, yea, and little children, (the fittest to adore a God) praised thee as King of Israel and angels: Praiseworthy and blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers!
O Sion! there came to thee Christ, thy King, seated on a young colt: for he came that he might loosen mankind from the senseless error of idolatry, and tame the wild passions of all nations; that thus they might praise thee, singing: Bless the Lord, all ye his works, and extol him above all forever!
Christ thy Lord hath reigned forever. He, as it is written, the meek one, the Saviour, our just Redeemer, came riding on an ass’s colt, that he might destroy the pride of his enemies, who would not sing these words: Bless the Lord, all ye his works, and extol him above all forever!
The unjust and obstinate Sanhedrin, the usurpers of the Holy Temple, are put to flight; for they had made God’s House of prayer a den of thieves, and shut their hearts against the Redeemer, to whom we cry: Bless the Lord, all ye his works, and extol him above all forever!
God is our Lord, he hath appeared unto us. Appoint a solemn feast, and come, let us rejoice and magnify the Christ, praising him, with palms and branches in our hands: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, our Saviour!
Why, O ye Gentiles, have ye raged against the Scriptures? Why, O ye Priests, have ye devised vain things, saying: Who is this, unto whom children, with palms and branches in their hands, cry aloud this praise: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord our Saviour?
Why, O ye perverse of heart, have ye thrown stumbling blocks in the way? Your feet are swift to shed the Blood of the Lord. But he will rise again, that he may save all that cry to him: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, our Saviour!
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)