Palm Sunday Reflection

Apr 5, 2017

From the earliest years of Christianity the faithful in Jerusalem would reenact the solemn entry of Christ into their city on the Sunday before Easter, holding a procession in which they carried branches and sang “Hosanna” to the Son of God. Over time, this practice spread and became recognizable as the Palm Sunday procession. The rite was accepted in Rome and incorporated into its liturgy, and the prayers used today are of very ancient Roman origin.

Originally, a Mass would first be celebrated in some church outside the walls of Rome, where the palms were blessed. Then a solemn procession moved into the city to the basilica of the Lateran or to Saint Peter's, where the Pope sang a second Mass. Eventually the first Mass was discontinued, and in its place only the ceremony of blessing was performed. A remnant of that first Mass can still be found in the Gospel read before processing into the church.

Centuries ago it was customary to bless not only branches but also various flowers of the season. Hence the name “Flower Sunday” was common in many countries. The term Pascua Florida, which in Spain originally referred to Palm Sunday, was later also applied to the whole festive season of Easter Week. That’s why the state of Florida received its name when, on March 27, 1513 (Easter Sunday), Ponce de Leon first sighted the land and named it in honor of this great feast.