Sunday, March 16, 2008

Holy Week - Palm Sunday

Note: In Christian circles, the week prior to Easter is sometimes called Holy Week or Passion Week. It marks the week in time in which Christians believe Jesus of Nazareth entered into Jerusalem, was executed by crucifixion, and was resurrected from the grave. In honor of this important time in the hearts of Christians everywhere, this week's stamp entries have a direct correlation to that week approximately 2000 years ago.

Palm Sunday is the Sunday prior to Easter, in which the Christian Church celebrates Jesus' entry into the city of Jerusalem. Later in the week, He was crucified and on Easter Sunday was resurrected.

According to biblical accounts located in all four Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, Jesus rode into the town of Jerusalem on the back of a colt. The colt is described as having never been ridden before. Jesus' disciples put cloaks over the colt, apparently to soften the ride for their leader and make it more comfortable for Jesus.

A crowd of people who had gathered waved palm fronds toward Jesus and laid cloaks and palm fronds onto the path before Him. The crowd began singing Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, part of the 118th Psalm.

When the crowds laid palm fronds in his path, it was a way of showing honor to Jesus. It was a common custom of that time in the Middle East for palm fronds to symbolize triumph and honor. This visit to Jerusalem by Jesus has been called the Triumphal Entry, since as he entered into the city, the crowd honored him as a prophet, teacher, and some recognized him as the long-awaited Savior of mankind.

In modern Christian churches, other than recognizing the importance of the day as when Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Protestant churches do not celebrate Palm Sunday in any ritualized way. In contrast, Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches place a high emphasis on their liturgical service for the day. Palm fronds are blessed, and these fronds are to be taken home by parishioners and used to bless and protect the person for the coming year.

In areas where palm trees do not naturally grow, other tree branches are used. Some churches, outside of temperate areas where the trees would grow, use willow branches or olive branches as a substitute for the palm fronds.

Palm Sunday is recognized as the start of Easter Week for most of Christendom. In April, 2002, the Ukrainian postal administration issued a stamp to commemorate Palm Sunday and its importance to Christian believers.

The stamp is denominated as .40 Ukraine Hryvnia (UAH), the unit of currency for that country. The stamps shows two arms holding palm fronds in a circular fashion. Inside the palm fronds is a depiction of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

1 comment:

peter said...

Contrary to what you say, many protestant churches in my country (UK)do have special observances in their services of Palm Sunday.

Sometimes there is procession with palm - or substitute - branches, especially involving the children.

Palm crosses are also distributed. The story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem is not neglected by preachers. The protestant congregations look forward to the celebrations of Jesus being proclaimed King and singing Hossanna!