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Passion Sunday

{ Tags: , \ Mar12 }

Passion Sunday which begins the Holy Week and marks the start of what can be called the Church’s yearly Easter retreat. It used to be called “Palm Sunday” because at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem prior to his passion, death and resurrection is reenacted. In this reenactment, the gospel reading from an account of Jesus’ entering Jerusalem on a donkey is read which is followed by the entrance of the priest into the sanctuary while he blesses the palm branches that the faithful wave for the occassion. The day is called “Passion Sunday” becauses during the liturgy of the word proper, the Passion of Christ (from any of the Gospels, depending on what Year the celebration is held) is proclaimed. (More here: WikiPedia, Passion Sunday)

During the current liturgical year (Year A), the accounts from the Gospel of Matthew is read: for the reenactment of Jesus’entrance, Matthew 21:1-11 and for the Gospel proclamation, the Passion according to Matthew. The reenactment of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem as a prophet (Matthew 21:10-11) marks him as the Suffering Servant (the mention of “Jeremiah” in Matthew 16:14 is a reference to a prophet that suffered much and is alluded to in Matthew 21:10-11. See my article on the episode.) This theme is carried over into the Liturgy of the Word where a selection from Isaiah 50 is read, followed by a reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:6-11 about the kenosis of Christ and his subsequent exaltation. Both these readings point to the sufferings of Christ, but these also allude to his glorification. In Isaiah 50:7-8, the Ebed Yahweh expresses his confidence that God will vindicate him against his foes.

The Lord God is my helper, therefore am I not confounded: therefore have I set my face as a most hard rock, and I know that I shall not be confounded. He is near that vindicates me, who will contend with me? let us stand together, who is my adversary? let him come near to me.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:9, the exaltation of Jesus (the giving of the Name above every other name) follows from his obedience “even unto death.” Here, Paul comes close to Matthew 28:18 in proclaiming the Lordship of Christ, something that the reading from Isaiah points to.

The proclamation from the Passion according to Matthew begins with the interrogation before Pilate. In view of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem which made the whole city “shake” anticipating a rebellion, Pilate asks whether Jesus was the King of the Jews. Matthew had already presented Jesus as the Son of David in his Genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1ff) and here Jesus gives his first and last answer to Pilate: “You have said it.” This is followed by the silence of Jesus — it is the silence of the Lamb of God. The proclamation continues until Matthew 27:54 where a centurion and those with him make a profession of faith about Jesus. Before this however is a line that gives a preview of Jesus’ resurrection and points to His final vindication.

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