This Sunday marks one of the most important days in the Christian calendar. Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, the week of events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. This is the time when we honor the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem and when the townspeople spread palm branches on the road to welcome Him. This was a customary practice for people of great respect.
I have often wondered of the significance of the palm tree and branch on Palm Sunday. Writing this piece has provided an opportunity to explore this question. In the simplest of terms, here is what I learned . . .
From Zechariah’s prophesy of the events of Palm Sunday 500 years before Jesus arrived in Jerusalem being fulfilled to Jesus’ unforeseen saving of His believers spiritually (rather than politically or culturally) the connection to the palm branch is tremendous and breathtaking. In Biblical times, the date palm tree was considered a princely tree. Palm branches were a widely recognized symbol of peace and the victory of spirit over flesh. Palms also provided food and shade and oasis and water; they were a symbol of welcome and of a journey’s end.
Today, Palm Sunday traditions are quite similar to the traditions of the tenth century. The palms are blessed, carried in procession, and the divine service is celebrated. We are asked as faithful believers in Christ to take our palms home and to place them in a way that reminds us of Christ in our daily life. A year later, the palms re-emerge as ashes that are placed on the foreheads of the faithful and as a symbol of penance during Lent.
While I strive to be among the blessed who have not seen and yet believe, outward symbols—such as a palm branch—help me with my ever growing spiritual connection to Jesus and provide a gentle reminder of His journey to forgive and offer mercy.
Jennifer Zenor is the Executive Director for the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. This organization is a leading advocate against sexual and domestic violence in Wyoming. Jennifer believes that engaging in compassionate efforts to prevent violence before it happens and also providing a collective response to victims of violence will build compassionate and engaged communities committed to see violence end.