Why I Love Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday may be my favorite Mass of the year, and not because of the procession or the palm branches. What I like is the Gospel reading. I do not know if this is common elsewhere, but in my parish the the Passion story is done with several people playing the different parts. A narrator reads most of it, with others voicing the words of the Disciples, Judas, Pontius Pilate, etc. The priest speaks the words of Christ - which in terms of quantity is a very small part.

The Gospel attributes some words not to any individual, but the "the crowd" that was present. So when we come to the part where the people cried out "Crucify Him!," the entire congregation speaks in unison. This is fitting, is it not? It reminds us that we are the reason He suffered and died. We demand "Give us Barabbas!" We taunt Him, saying "Hail, King of the Jews!" We say these things because people just like us said them on the terrible day so many years ago. We say these words so that we remember we are no better. It touches me in a way that listening to someone else read the same words, or reading them to myself alone, does not.

When the moment comes that Christ cries out and gives up His spirit, we pause, we kneel, and we reflect in silence for several minutes. Then we hear how the Temple veil was torn, the earth shook, the rocks were split and the tombs were opened. We think about how the world changed at that moment. For me, at least, it is a very moving part of the liturgy.

This is, incidentally, something that could also be done very effectively in Protestant and Evangelical services. I can think of no better way to get every individual in the congregation involved in the story. All you have to do is hand out a script to everyone (here is an example), assign parts to some of your leaders, and read it during the service. Families could also do it at home, with children assigned different parts. Since this reading doesn't include the Resurrection, it is best done during the season but before Easter Sunday.

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