Saturday, 31 March 2012 11:20
This coming Sunday, predominantly Catholic Philippines – from Batanes to Tawi Tawi – will mark yet again Palm Sunday, the first day of the Holy Week leading up to Easter.
Among the Catholics, this is the day, the sixth Sunday of Lent, when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and was greeted by followers waving palm fronds.
Palms, by tradition in Catholic and Aglipayan churches, are given out every year during Palm Sunday mass to remind them, say theologians, of Jesus’ life, sacrifice, and the significance of the events of Holy Week.
The following year, these same palms are collected at mass on Ash Wednesday and used to make ashes for the Ash Wednesday rituals.
Palm Sunday marks the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, where he would be crucified five days later.
According to the Catholic Gospels, Jesus rode into town on a donkey as high-spirited crowds hailed him as the Messiah and spread out palm branches and cloaks in his path.
Palm Sunday is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar after Christmas and Easter.
According to theologians, the celebration of Palm Sunday originated in the Jerusalem Church, around the late fourth century.
The early Palm Sunday ceremony consisted of prayers, hymns, and sermons recited by the clergy while the people walked to various holy sites throughout the city. At the final site, the place where Christ, according to theologians, ascended into heaven, the clergy would read from the gospels concerning the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
In the early evening they would return to the city reciting: "Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord." The children would carry palm and olive branches as the people returned through the city back to the church, where they would hold evening services.
The significance of Jesus riding a donkey and having his way paved with palm branches is, theologians say, a fulfillment of a prophecy spoken by the prophet Zechariah.
In biblical times, the regional custom called for kings and nobles arriving in procession to ride on the back of a donkey, a symbol of peace.
Today, Palm Sunday traditions are much the same as they have been since the tenth century.
The ceremony begins with the blessing of the palms. The procession follows, then Mass is celebrated, wherein the Passion and the Benediction are sung. Afterwards, many people take the palms home and place them in houses, barns, and fields.
In some countries, palms are placed on the graves of the departed. In colder northern climates, where palm trees are not found, branches of yew, willow, and sallow trees are used.
In many towns in the Philippines, discovered for Europe by Ferdinand Magellan in the 16th century, Palm Sunday celebrations also mean processions round town where marching bands play center stage.
Not many know, even among the old and young generation, that Palm Sunday is for reflecting on the final week of Jesus life, a time for the faithful to prepare their hearts for the agony of His passion and the joy of His resurrection.
In the meantime, some young men and women in 21st century Philippines have done some innovation in reciting the passion of the Lord, with some hip hop beat or the culture of rap music – surprisingly this has been endorsed by many Catholic priests.
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