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Palm Sunday

How Do You Celebrate Palm Sunday?

Palm Sunday

Through people contacting me, asking for an explanation of the entry in our lectionary booklet for Palm Sunday, I am becoming aware that there are communities that celebrate Palm Sunday without reading the Passion story. These, hence, struggle to make sense of the lectionary entry which does not provide a set of readings that just concludes with the entry-into-Jerusalem-carrying-palms Gospel reading.

Palm Sunday Readings

The issue is expressed well by Ven. Dr. Peter Carrell:

Personally I am finding the readings and instructions set out in NZL 2014 unhelpful. For instance they imply that if I wanted to focus on Palm Sunday but didn’t actually have a palm procession then I should not have the Matthew Palm Sunday reading, Matthew 21:1-11.

Nevertheless I recognise that in our church (in my experience and according to my knowledge) there are broadly two traditions or customs followed.

1. Today is Palm Sunday and the readings focus on that with the Gospel reading being the story of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem from the gospel of the year.

2. Today is the Sunday in which we celebrate both the Liturgy of the Palms and the Liturgy of the Passion. Thus the gospel story of entry to Jerusalem is told near the beginning of the service, in conjunction with a procession of palms, but the gospel readings in the normal place for readings to occur concern the passion or suffering of our Lord.

I am offering comment on readings for a liturgy which solely focuses on Palm Sunday….

It would be helpful to have some idea how widespread these practices are. So please click your answer on this poll:

THANKS for clicking on that poll.

Personally, omitting the Passion reading at the regular Sunday parish Eucharist this coming Sunday would not have entered my head. For me Palm Sunday = Passion Sunday. [I am informed, from different sources, of places that pride themselves as leaders in liturgy, that announced last Sunday as “Passion Sunday”, followed by no particular reference to the Passion in hymns, readings, prayers, sermon, etc. still occurs. That I, along with the majority current Western tradition refer to this coming Sunday, when we read the Passion, as “Passion Sunday”, some regard as pedantic 🙂 ]

Here is my version of the Palm Sunday rite, drawn from Celebrating Eucharist.

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9 thoughts on “How Do You Celebrate Palm Sunday?”

  1. Pedantry or not, Bosco, our lectionary is very confusing naming last Sunday as Passion Sunday and this coming Sunday as Palm Sunday. One virtue of pedantry is that it can lead the confused out of their confused state!

    1. Thanks Peter. I cannot make any sense out of the NZ lectionary booklet calling last Sunday “Passion Sunday”. Our lectionary booklet appears committed to the RCL approach (which obviously understands this coming Sunday as “Passion Sunday”). Blessings.

  2. Hmm. I get enquiries about this most years from the communities I work with. Isn’t the Passion Sunday reference (5th in Lent)a hangover from the 2 year cycle of ANZPB/HKMOA (p. 579)? Interestingly it’s not called Passion Sunday in the 3-year series (p.698). Maybe it’s vestigial, like a tailbone!

  3. Father Robert Lyons

    Our usage is a bit different. We begin with a palm procession, including Gospel. However, our Gospel reading within the Eucharist proper is not a passion reading, but John’s post-Triumphal Entry teaching from Jesus, in which the famous ‘unless a kernel of wheat shall fall to the ground and die…’ passage. Proper preface reflects this, as do the remaining propers.

    We use the four passion narratives over four years on Good Friday.


  4. We celebrate Passiontide..one Sunday before Passion Sunday…like the C of E as a way to prepare people for the coming celebrations of Holyweek and the Paschal Triduum. It is less liturgical and more a psychological shift away from the emphasis of Lent on Penance and conversion towards a celebration of the Paschal Mystery. The Bloodred and black vestments of Passiontide are so stark and powerful…to only use one week seems a shame…then of course..as our Episcopal Rite requires palm Sunday and Passion Sunday are one and the same.

  5. Before we ask «how?», we should ask «why?»

    All the Eastern and Oriental Churches have joyful Palms-only services today. The Passion hymns and readings begin only tomorrow.

    In contrast, the Roman Church began the Passiontide last Sunday. The Passiontide is a two-weeks period, consisting of the last week of the Lent, and the Great Week (hebdomada magna). Hymns and readings about the Passion have begun last Sunday.

    This is what justifies a joyful “intrusion” within the Passiontide. This is why there is a Palm liturgy of the Word, with introit, collect, OT reading, tract, Gospel, secreta, and blessing of the palms in a eucharistic manner (non-eucharistic anaphora). Then the procession, and a second liturgy of the Word, which is of the Passion, with the Passion reading of Matthew. During the week following, the other Passion gospels will be read.

    Reading the Passion today, with no link whatsoever to anything else has no sense. If there is a Passiontide, which has begun one week ago, then ok, a Passion liturgy today (after the Palms liturgy) has a good meaning. If we don’t have the Passiontide anymore, but only the holy week, then leave the Passion for tomorrow and the week itself. Liturgy should mean, not imitate rubrics.

    1. Thanks, Georges.

      I cannot follow your logic, sorry. Matthew’s Passion was read on Palm Sunday in some of the earliest accounts we have. Luke’s Passion was read on Wednesday, and John’s on Good Friday.


  6. I had to check to see what we would do today. Palm procession, followed by RCL OT, Ps., and Ep. Then the Palm Gospel, which was jarring after the passion typology of the OT and Ps. (and overt crucifixion ref. in the Ep.). The gap was covered by the homily, which was a two-person affair giving reflections on the “characters” of Holy Week, inviting us to see whether we identified with any of them (Jesus, Peter, the unnamed servant girl, Judas, Pilate, the bad thief, the good thief, the crowd).

    Me? I like the procession liturgy suggested in the old English Hymnal (1906/1933).

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