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Today is Palm Sunday
Today is Palm Sunday, which means we have arrived once more on the threshold of Holy Week. Roman Catholics know the significance of this particular celebration, when the church marks the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover.
The most significant thing about today is the reception of blessed palms. It is traditional in T&T that great reverence is attached to these blessed palms. They are carefully stored in private chapels in homes, they are attached to holy pictures in our homes, and they are even affixed to parts of our motor vehicles. In most instances, they are regarded as a sign of protection against evil.
But more importantly, Roman Catholics are called upon to remember the last week of Jesus’ life on earth and is held as the most important time in the church calendar as all the celebrations during this week leads to the grand celebration of Easter, with all its attendant joy.
But Palm Sunday is both a happy day as well as a sad day. Christians are happy because Jesus is being praised, but sadness kicks in because of the stark realisation that they will celebrate the death of Jesus in a mere five days.
Before 1955, this Sunday was known in the Catholic Church simply as Palm Sunday. From 1955 to 1971, it was called Second Sunday in the Passiontide, but some retained the Palm Sunday nomenclature. The previous Sunday was known as Passion Sunday, when all the statues and figurines in the churches were covered with a purple cloth, which was removed on Good Friday.
As Holy Week progresses, the next significant day is Holy Thursday when the Mass of the Last Supper is celebrated, usually in the evening, following which the Blessed Sacrament is moved from the tabernacle in the church to an altar of repose at some other location outside the main body of the church and the church bells go silent until Saturday night when they come to life again when the Gloria, which has been absent during all masses in Lent, is sung once more.
Also on Holy Thursday, a practice which has become more and more popular is the “Washing of the Feet” when the priest washes the feet of 12 of his faithful, which is done right after the homily. After the Blessed Sacrament is removed, the main altar and even some auxiliary altars are laid bare. This holy mass also marks the start of the Easter Triduum, which includes Good Friday, Gloria Saturday and Easter Sunday.
Usually there are two significant events on Good Friday—The Stations of the Cross and the Veneration of the Cross. Recently the re-enactment of Christ’s journey to Calvary has become very popular in many parishes, especially those with permanent stations outside the church. The St John the Baptist RC Church on St John Road, St Augustine, does it with a 4 am procession to Mount St Benedict, where the pilgrims join the monks for morning prayers following the “stations.”
This day marks the official end of Lent and when mass is celebrated, the church bells ring out and in more recent times there is a baptism ceremony used to receive new Catholics (adults in most cases, but babies also) into the church.
The Easter vigil as it is more appropriately termed, sees several important things happen, the blessing of the new fire and the blessing of water (holy water) as well as the lighting of the paschal candle from the new fire, a very long but moving celebration which in most parishes is done in the late evening.
Vernon Khelawan is media relations officer of Catholic Media Services Ltd (Camsel) the official communications arm of the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain. Its offices are located at 31 Independence Square. Telephone—623-7620.
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