Most of us know the Sunday before Easter as Palm Sunday. It celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem just before his arrest, trial, death and resurrection. However, for the past few years we have joined many other faith communities by designating this Sunday as Palm and Passion Sunday.
What Is Passion Sunday?
For centuries the Roman Catholic Church recognized the two week period before Easter as "Passiontide." The word "passion" is from the Latin patior which means "to suffer, bear, or endure." It is the root word for the English words "patience" and "patient."
Traditionally, Catholics recognized the Sunday before Palm Sunday as "Passion Sunday," and the two weeks including Holy Week and "Passiontide." However, in 1959 the Catholic Church ceased to recognize the official season of Passiontide. Since then, they, and an increasing number of Protestant churches, particularly churches in the Anglican tradition, have combined the elements of Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday on the Sunday before Holy Week.
In many cases, the flow of worship on that Sunday begins with the excitement of the triumphal entry (often times with children waving palms and the congregation singing powerful hymns of "Hosanna!") and shifts to the entry of the worshipers into Holy Week.
In normal times this dual purpose of Palm and Passion Sunday helps us to experience the incredible disjunction of praise and excitement followed by sadness and repentance. That movement is important. Easter loses some of its impact and meaning without Holy Week. By ending Palm Sunday with a focus on the "passion" we are ready to take Holy Week seriously, as a necessary step to Easter, just like repentance is a necessary step toward forgiveness.
But These Are Not Normal Times
But these are not normal times. We aren't gathering together this Sunday in the same, familiar, space, with the kids waving palms, and the rest of us singing and praying and fellowshipping together, in the same room, together in each other's presence, as friends and fellow seekers.
It feels more like just Passion Sunday.
But don't let it feel only like Passion Sunday! Don't forget the Palms, don't forget to cry "Hosanna!" Christ is King! Maybe not the king many of the people of Israel prayed for, but certainly the King God gave us, the One we needed. And before Holy Week 2020 begins it is right for us to cry out, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"
On the other hand, this may be much more like how it must have felt for Jesus and the disciples--a time of endurance and even suffering. It is certainly a time that calls for almost unbearable patience. And let us not forget all who are literally becoming patients, or who are caring for patients in this time of "passion."
This year it maybe okay if we drift a bit more quickly from Palms to Passion. But don't let us slip too fast or too far, for Easter will come! (maybe even with a few twists and turns, and even some surprises!)
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!