The hopeful crowd greeted Jesus as he came into Jerusalem riding on a colt. They waved palms and laid down their cloaks before him, welcoming their king. Full of anticipation and joy they cried 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!” (Mark 11:8-10)
This event is remembered during the procession that begins every Mass. On Palm Sunday, the connection is made clear as the assembly joins the priest in a solemn procession into the church. Waving palms and singing praise, the churchgoers celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem for it was there that he accomplished the salvation of the world.
The rite for the procession begins with the priest leading an introductory prayer, and then he sprinkles the palms with holy water to bless them.
The prayer of blessing “reminds the assembly that we are to welcome Christ into our own lives and bear faithful witness to his Lordship over us.”
Then a Gospel account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is proclaimed preferably by a deacon. This year Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16 will be proclaimed and may be followed by a homily.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem manifested the coming of the kingdom that the King-Messiah was going to accomplish by the Passover of his death and resurrection. It is with the celebration of that entry on Palm Sunday that the Church’s liturgy solemnly opens Holy Week.” (no. 560)
Traditionally the palms are kept near or behind a crucifix, on a prayer altar or with their Bible.
Keeping the palm not only helps Catholics remember Jesus’ Passion but also helps “us taking up our crosses and not shy away from whatever crosses the Lord has given us.
The palms are brought back to churh a year later to be burned so the ashes can be used on Ash Wednesday to begin Lent anew.
It is said that using ashes from the previous year’s blessed palms shows the connection between the suffering, death and resurrection and our own need for continuing conversion.
For those who don’t return their palms to be burned for Ash Wednesday and want to dispose of them properly, the same rule applies as with any blessed object. They should never be disposed of in the trash. The proper way is by burning or burial. With palms in particular it would be appropriate to bury them in a flower garden at your home if they are not going to be burned at the parish to make ashes.
Palm Sunday, which is also called Passion Sunday, is celebrated the Sunday before Easter. This year, Palm Sunday falls today, April 5th.