Palm Sunday 2023

  • 02.04.23
  • 12:00 PM
  • St George's Cathedral, Lambeth Road, London SE1
  • Takes place in person
"Today we step into the Great Week of our Salvation in Christ. We journey forward and upward, rubbing shoulders with the characters in the Gospels, with the people of the passion.  We set our face and voice and mind and heart towards Jerusalem.... Today the Lord Jesus asks you to come close to him. In a very special and intimate way, he invites you to spend the next seven days with him, moment by moment, as the tension builds towards his suffering and death and the joy explodes at his resurrection"

- Archbishop John Wilson

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, during which we recall the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today mark's his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey (an animal that symbolises peace) as prophesied in Zechariah 9.9 and born out in Matthew 21.5

“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

Jesus is hailed by the people as a spiritual leader and for many, the person who would help deliver them from Rome, but this human perception underestimated the true gift that Jesus would give in the week ahead, as described in today's Second Reading: 

His state was divine, yet Jesus Christ did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.

- Philippians 2: 6-11.

We hear in today's Entrance Antiphon that Jesus enters the city and that the children run to meet him; in their hands they carried palm branches, exclaiming ‘Hosanna’, which means ‘save now’ and ‘Blessed are you who have come in your abundant mercy’.  The palms themselves represent victory, triumph and goodness.

However, the rumblings of disquiet that lead to the dramatic events of the week ahead are in motion.  The city is in turmoil at the arrival of Jesus, as people ask, “Who is this?” with the crowds replying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

During the Vigil Mass of Palm Sunday, we hear in the Gospel Reading (John 11. 45-56) of the Pharisee's concern about the 'signs' that Jesus is working, asking themselves what action they should take. This leads to Caiaphas' prophetic statement that it is 'Better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed'.  Jesus infuriates the religious authorities further by overturning trade tables in the temple and teaching that tax collectors and prostitutes would go into the Kingdom of God ahead of others because of their belief in him:

‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is amazing in our eyes’?

 “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces its fruits. 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone on whom it falls. - Matthew 21.42-44

Jesus himself knew that the tide would turn against him, having already prophesied his death in Matthew 20.18:

"Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death"

On Palm Sunday the faithful will receive palms which are used to re-enact the triumphant arrival of Our Lord in Jerusalem. They are distributed to parishioners who will process with them into the church.

The palms blessed on Palm Sunday are used in the procession of the day, they may be taken home and used for personal devotion or left in the church. The palms should not be thrown away as they are blessed: the ashes for Ash Wednesday are created by burning palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration.

Today, congregations across the Archdiocese of Southwark will participate in St Matthew's account of  Christ’s Passion. Archbishop will bless palms at the 12 noon Mass in St George's Cathedral.  View today's readings here: 

Please do take a moment today to check the times of Holy Week liturgies in your parish via the website or newsletter. 

View local church details here

Archbishop Wilson blesses palms

Photographs by Seb Budner