Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday


Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter and the first day of Holy Week, which is the last week of Lent. On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus went to Jerusalem, where later he would be arrested and crucified, to observe the Jewish festival of Passover (Pesach) which celebrates the freedom of the Children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses. Many Jews travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast together.

What happens at St James's

On Palm Sunday at St James's the liturgy combines both triumph and tragedy. Every member of the congregation is given a palm leaf folded in the form of a cross. As we gather in the churchyard with palms, the service begins with a triumphant procession through the streets, with the children carrying palm leaves and the congregation singing songs of praise and waving the palm crosses, acclaiming Christ as king. All this reminds us of the exuberant demonstration of praise which greeted Christ as a king as he rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. As part of the Eucharist on Palm Sunday there is a reading about Jesus' suffering and death, his 'passion', laying out the sequence of events of Holy Week.

A palm crossBackground

Before going to Jerusalem, Jesus was staying at Bethany and Bethphage, and while he was there he sent two disciples to collect a donkey that had been tied up but never ridden. If they were challenged they were to say that the donkey was needed by the Lord but would be returned. Jesus then rode the donkey into Jerusalem. The people welcomed Jesus like a King, waving palm branches and laying their cloaks and palm branches from the nearby trees in his path. They shouted 'Hosanna' which is a cry of praise or adoration.

The palm crosses, which we are given, are more than just a keepsake. They symbolise the fact that those who sang 'Hosanna' (or 'save, now!') to Christ later turned against him, shouting 'crucify him'. Our small crosses provide us with a focus as we begin the journey of Holy Week and any that are left over are kept to be burnt, so that their ashes can be used in the Ash Wednesday service the following year.

Find out more

Palm Sunday (service booklet) 
Palm Sunday (2017 photo album)