A Simple Ritual for the Home
“On this day the Church celebrates Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery” (Roman Missal).
“Entrance” is the key to understanding the liturgy of Passion (Palm) Sunday. We enter into Jerusalem with Christ. We enter into our holiest week. We enter into our final preparation for the Easter feast.
Ordinarily when we go to Sunday Mass we enter the church one by one, as we arrive. On Palm Sunday, we enter the church together -- a grand entrance.
Usually, the community gathers in another location (outside the church, for example, or in the school hall). One of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem is proclaimed.
Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!”
And then we “enter into” the Gospel. We go with Christ into Jerusalem. We process into the church.
Procession with Palms
This is one of our most joyful and triumphant processions of the entire year. As we gather on this Sunday we receive a branch of palm or olive (or other green plant).
What do you do with the palm branches you bring home from Palm Sunday Mass?
The branches are blessed by the priest before the procession and often kept as blessed objects in peoples’ homes. Please don't throw them (or any scrap pieces) into the trash. The proper way to dispose of blessed items is to bury them, burn them, or return them your church so they can burn them and use them next Ash Wednesday.
One of my fondest memories of Palm Sunday as a child is the quick palm cross my mom would whip each of our palms into as soon as we sat down at church. The palm crosses were a sign of how quickly our love and adoration for Jesus can turn to rejection of him through sin. Our shouts of "Hosannah!" turn to shouts of "Crucify him!" during that Mass almost as fast as my palm turned from a branch into a cross.
There was another, more practical benefit to her talent as well. Palm branches that wave during the procession quickly turn into swords, lightsabers, sky writing pens, lassos, and objects of torture in the hands of young children. The compact crosses my mom whipped out during the First Reading were not nearly as easy to poke my siblings with!
For more detailed instructions, visit: How to Make Palm Crosses
In many areas of the world these branches are prepared ahead of time at home, and are braided and tied with decorative ribbons and flowers. Often this activity involves the children and the whole family and causes a spirit of excitement and anticipation of the Sunday liturgy.
Palm Weaving Instruction Video
If you don't need to braid or weave palms during Mass to keep them from becoming sibling torture objects, you can always transform them after you get home. If you can't braid your palms within an hour or two after Mass, place your palms in a zip-loc bag with a tablespoons of water, seal it, shake it, and place it in the fridge (for up to 2 days). This will keep it from drying out until you can get to braiding it.
A Simple Ritual for the Home
Consider a simple ceremony to place your palm branches (with or without weaving or braiding them) in your home. After dinner or at another time on Palm Sunday, the household gathers where the palms have been placed, perhaps near a crucifix or the family Bible.*
All make the Sign of the Cross. The leader begins:
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
R/. Hosanna in the highest!
The leader may use these or similar words to introduce the prayer:
We have come to the last days of Lent. Today we heard the reading of the Passion. That story will remain with us as we leave Lent behind on Holy Thursday and enter into the three days when we celebrate the mystery of Christ’s passing through suffering and death to life at God’s right hand.
Listen to the words of the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (4:10-11):
[We are] always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
R/. Thanks be to God.
After a time of silence, members of the household join in prayers of intercession. The intercessions are followed by the Lord’s Prayer. The leader continues:
Let us pray.
Blessed are you, God of Israel, so rich in love and mercy.
Let these branches ever remind us of Christ’s triumph.
May we who bear them rejoice in his Cross
and sing your praise forever and ever.
The leader concludes: Let us bless the Lord.
All respond, making the Sign of the Cross: Thanks be to God.
*This prayer service was originally published on the For Your Marriage website. Copyright © 2015, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Reprinted with Permission.