Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

The antiphons sung by the choir of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, CA this morning, give a superb overview for our reflection of our Lord’s passion:

Opening Antiphon:

Hosanna filio David:
benedictus qui venit
     in nomine Domini.
Rex Israel: Hosanna in excelsis.
Hosanna to the Son of David.
Blessed is he who comes
    in the name of the Lord.
King of Israel: Hosanna in the highest.

The Scriptures tell us the crowd was jubilant, escorting Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. They spread their cloaks on the ground before Jesus, while others cut branches from the trees to place along the road. The crowds all around were cheering, crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!” (paraphrased from Matthew 21:1-11).

The readings shift our attention from the exaltation of Jesus and his king’s welcome into the city, to the reason why he came to Jerusalem in the first place. Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22)


Offertory Antiphon:

O vos omnes qui transitis per viam:
attendite et videte
si est dolor
     sicut dolor meus.
Come, all you who pass by the way:
look and see 
whether there is any suffering
     like my suffering.

What a challenge to hear these words at the offertory. “Come, pass by and see my suffering.”

Saint Magdalene of Canossa always told her daughters, “No matter how little the Daughters of Charity penetrate the mystery of the Cross, they will see that the strictest poverty they might practice will always be a game and nothing compared to that of the Crucifix.” (Unabridged Rule of the Canossian Daughters of Charity, p.68)

Thus, whatever we do, any sacrifices we make in the name of Christ, we have no reason to boast. There is no suffering like that of our Lord in His passion.


Communion Antiphon

Pater, si non potest hic calix transire,
nisi bibam illum:
fiat voluntas tua.
Father, if this cup cannot pass away
unless I drink it,
Thy will be done.

Father, Thy will be done! These words were repeated while the faithful made their way up to communion today. “Father, if this cup cannot pass, but I must drink of it, let your will be done, let your will be done.”  (Matthew 26:42).

Every step towards communion reminded me of the ultimate sacrifice, the pouring out of our Lord’s blood for our sins. It humbled me to think that I can receive the Lord’s true presence in the Eucharist. Are we worthy? No. We never will be. But by Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will, our reception is based on His worthiness…what grace.


Blessed Holy Week everyone. May our Lord bless you abundantly in our contemplation of His greatest act of love found on the Cross.


Related posts:

Lisa Graas has the Passion of Christ in Full on her site.

If you haven’t been to confession for a while, Father Z has some helpful hints.

Let’s remember Mary’s role as we reflect on the passion.


Passion of Christ and Mary’s Role

As we commemorate the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus this Palm Sunday, my thoughts turn too, to the role of Mary, who is not mentioned Matthew’s narrative, from which we have this year’s readings. My thoughts were prompted by a challenge from a friend.

At the challenge of a friend, I picked up the closest book on hand*, turned to page 56, and wrote down the fifth sentence:

“La Vergine Madre è ai piedi del sacerdote con gli occhi rivolti al cielo, tenendo in braccio il sacro Pegno. Ella sente tutto il peso rovesciato sulla Vittima divina e si unisce ad essa.”


“The Virgin Mother is at the foot of the priest with her eyes to heaven, holding in her arms the sacred Pledge. She feels all the weight placed upon the Divine Victim and unites herself to Him.”

A conversation ensued, based on my translation, since I admitted I didn’t like to use the word ‘Pledge’ in this context. Still pondering this thought, I wrote:

“‘Pegno’ is hard to translate here … because what is happening at the Cross is more than a ‘pledge’ (as we would use the word). It is a reference to a promise, a token (another weak word), a sign (a little better?). It is ‘to pawn’ something. Hmmm. Very interesting indeed! Is Jesus what is pawned, for the promise of our future redemption?”

(To use the word ‘pledge’ would be correct, deriving from the Latin ‘pignus’. And ‘pignus’ is where the word ‘pawn’ comes from.)

Peg responds: “His body and blood pawned for the souls of humanity”.

Yes, the image of Jesus given over for humanity works, but in my thoughts, I was trying to imagine God walking into a pawnshop, with His only begotten Son tucked under his arm, to offer him as a temporary holding…no, the image doesn’t quite work.

Then Deb chimed in:

Could it (the pledge) be similar to the Greek word “arrabon” meaning a down-payment?

She made the connection between the letters of Saint Paul, and his use of the Greek word ‘arrabon’, quoting his letter to the Ephesians:

“In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.” (NAB)

Deb’s translation uses the word ‘Guarantee’ in place of the NAB’s ‘first installment’. Both translations point to something in the future, that is to come. Something promised and certain.

So, looking back to my translation, how would it read to replace ‘Pledge’:

“The Virgin Mother is at the foot of the priest with her eyes to heaven, holding in her arms the sacred First-Installment/Guarantee. She feels all the weight placed upon the Divine Victim and unites herself to Him.”

The posturing of Mary, it seemed to me, was all wrong. It was too…priestly (eyes to heaven; offering the ‘sacred Pledge’; uniting herself to the weight of the sacrifice), as though she is offering the Divine Sacrifice. But this sentence cannot be fully understood without the following paragraph, which reads:

“Dopo un istante d’ineffabile raccoglimento alza le braccia e, consengnando il Bambino all’Ufficiante, ne fa con lui solenne oblazione al Padre, e supplica di ricevere, il Figlio suo come prezzo dell’umano riscatto.”


“After an inexpressible moment of reflection, she raises her arms, handing over the Child to the Official, makes of him a solemn offering (oblation) to the Father, and begs Him to receive her Son as the price of redeemed humanity.”

So, rather than Mary standing at the Cross, the passage portrays Mary in the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. She is offering her first-born Son. Her offering Jesus in the Temple foreshadows her standing at the foot of the Cross, the altar of supreme Sacrifice. It is for this reason, the first passage can speak of a ‘first-installment’ or ‘pledge’. At His presentation in the Temple, Jesus is the Pledge of future redemption, in that very small, vulnerable Child, offered in the arms of His mother.

This is the Mary we all know and love. She is not the priestess offering the sacrifice, but rather the ‘handmaid of the Lord’, offering the first-fruits of her womb for the service of God and His glory. She presents her only begotten Son in his infancy as the pledge of the future redemption to be brought through his life, suffering, death and resurrection.

What a beautiful example of the Christian life. Luke’s narrative of the Presentation describes Mary, as one who too will experience suffering (and you yourself, a sword shall pierce – Luke 2:35). It is this sword of sorrow that inspired the title for Mary, Mother of Sorrows. She unites herself to her Son in his suffering. We too are called to participate in God’s redemptive work through uniting our own suffering with the Supreme Sacrifice. May we raise our arms and eyes towards heaven, and make a gift back to God all that pierces our heart or afflicts our body, for the service of God and His glory.


As we come together today, to recall the suffering at the Cross, let us carry in our hearts, Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, who shared in a way the sacrifice of her Son.  A prayer prayed every morning by the Canossian Sisters throughout the world may help us in this intention:

Father, you willed that Mary be at the Foot of the Cross
Sharing in the sacrifice of your Son.
Grant, that through her intercession,
we may bear within ourselves the image of Christ
Crucified and Risen,
and spend ourselves with untiring charity
for the good of our brothers and sisters.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


*  Taken from Spiritualità Canossiana, Sr. Antoinetta Monzoni, FdCC, 1944

This story is cross-posted at National Catholic Register.


Salvifici Dolores (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering), Pope John Paul II


Peg Demetris blogs at Peg Pondering Again (and this post linked here)

Deb Thurston – ocds, blogs at Karmalight