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Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week

MANILA, Philippines — Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week, which is the last week of the 40-day Lenten season. It is the highlight of the religious observance that retells the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as He fulfilled the Father’s will to save mankind from sin through Him.

Holy Week is like a day-to-day recounting of Jesus’ story, with Palm Sunday marking His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding a donkey to signify arrival in peace, as opposed to riding a horse, which may be taken to mean coming to wage war and conquer.

People laid out palm branches on the road as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, thus the name Palm Sunday. So, the modern day observance of Palm Sunday sees churchgoers buying palm branches from vendors, who fold and twist and cut the leaves to form different designs, and at an appointed time and on cue during the Mass, altogether wave the palm branches to welcome Jesus (represented by the priest, who then blesses the palm branches by sprinkling Holy Water onto them).

The blessed palm branches are taken home and hung on the wall near windows and doors to signify that the Lord is welcome in the house. The branches are kept there for a year. The following year, as the countdown of days leading to the next Lenten season begins, the neighborhood church collects these old palm branches and ritually burn them together to make ashes to be used by priests to make the sign of the cross on the foreheads of Christians on Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the 40-day Lenten season — and so the symbolic cycle of the palm branches and the ash continues year in and year out.

The Palm Sunday activities of the Lord Jesus Christ are so important that all four canonical Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — bear accounts of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

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