By Chizoba Njaka
PALM Sunday is a day Christians commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as Saviour and King.
Speaking in an interview, the Parish Vicar, Saint Theresa’s, Mbaukwu, Rev.Fr James Adawai, explained that the celebration was first founded in a prophecy in Isaiah 53 :12 and Zechariah 9: 9 in the Old Testament and also mentioned in each of the four books of the Gospel in the New Testament.
Father Adawai said that Jesus entered Jerusalem as saviour and king on a donkey which signifies peace and humility, as his followers laid out palm trees, clothes, among other items in front of his path, demonstrating unwavering respect. Thus, the palms represent peace and victory in this immense act of adoration.
However, “Palm Sunday is celebrated by the blessing and distribution of palm branches. The crowd scattered it in front of Christ as he rode into Jerusalem as saviour and King on a donkey. That is why it is alternatively called Palm Sunday (based on the fact that during Jesus’ triumphal entry, the crowd had palm branches (John 12:13) or Passion Sunday (based on the fact that on this day, the narrative of the Passion is read) or even called Hosanna Sunday (based on the biblical words uttered by the crowd while Jesus entered Jerusalem).
“Recall it took place in the first day of the Holy Week, the final week and final Sunday of Lent, which leads into the Holy Week. It is celebrated on Sunday before Easter. We can say that it is the sixth Sunday of Lent and the day the Lord made his way towards the end of his earthly existence. In other words, Jesus began his journey to the cross. This transcend up to this day”, he added.
Historically, “Palm Sunday is biblical as well as a real life story. It is a rich spiritual historical event which took place in the ancient and hallowed city of Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago as recorded in the Scriptures and people celebrating laid down their cloaks and small branches of trees in front of Christ singing part of Psalm 118 verses 25 to 26 (Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord).
Beginning in Jerusalem, in the fourth century, the faithful re-enacted the solemn entry of Christ into Jerusalem as was originally celebrated by the Jews. The celebration spread from Jerusalem to Spain and France by the 7th century. In Spain unlike in France, where there was no procession until the 9th century, there was the blessing of palm at the altar and the blessing of the people. While in Jerusalem, the bishop rode on ass, whereas in Egypt, the cross was carried in triumph, and in Spain and France, the creed was handed over to catechumens on Palm Sunday.
It also spread to Rome about the 7th century and by the 11th century, the procession with palm becomes Roman custom, that entered the Papal liturgy in the 12th century where palms were blessed at the chapel and the Eucharistic liturgy celebrated at the Lateran Basilica where the papal retinue processed to”, Adawai enlightened.
The Parish Vicar enumerated the significance, impact or impression Palm Sunday should have in the lives of every Christians as recognising Jesus as their king and saviour, becoming a peace maker with humility, and being victorious both physically and spiritually.
“It should make the Christian a symbol of peace in the world, remind them of the reign of Christ as King in their mind or heart which is signified in the spreading of the garments and as is in the tradition of Israelite kingship. A Christian should be able to welcome Christ in his or her heart and renew their willingness to follow Him up to their death without compromise or fear of the world. It should increase in the Christian a zealous search for holiness since it ushers them into the Holiest of all weeks”.
Furthermore, Reverend Father Adawai noted, “it is a reminder to all Christians of the route that brought their salvation and makes them keep in focus the true calling of a Christian which is the cross,fill their hearts with joy and thanksgiving to God for sending His only begotten son to redeem them out of the love He has for mankind. (John 3:16). Not only that, it should remind Christians that their lives should be based on a life of victory since Christ has overcome death and sin for them. So Christianity is not just the life of the cross but has a victorious dimension”, he emphasised.
He however, reminded all the believers that it is a joyful celebration thus, “we should rejoice for our salvation is near. On the other hand, we have to be contrite and repentant since the death of Christ is the result of our sins and guilt.
Christian faithful should learn by this great event how Jesus didn’t cling to His Kingship but gave Himself up in death, the most ignominious death for the sake of His people. As He was in the form of God but did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped”, he concluded.
Meanwhile, while celebrating the Palm Sunday Mass, Reverend Father James Adawai said that Jesus was courageous to work in pains and suffering without compromising his call and status as God himself, charged Christians to take Christ as their role model in their journey to salvation.
Father Adawai stated that Christ, who journeyed to Jerusalem on a cot or donkey did not come for war or violence but in peace, called on every believer to imbibe such actions and shun violence.
He urged Catholic faithful that as Passion Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy week, they should use the period to have sober reflection on their past, amend where necessary, be in good terms with God to enable them get indolence so that things would turn around for them and with the entire society.
He also reminded them to always uphold and never allow the blessings of peace installed by Christ as shared in common through his death dry up but be strong, even as the earth soars and shakes in fears.