Support the Café

Search our Site

Palms+Passion = Discordance?

Palms+Passion = Discordance?

The Christian Century has an online editorial, authored by Karoline Lewis, titled Against Passion Sunday suggesting that we should celebrate Palm Sunday without the weight of the Passion Story appended to it.

I understand the practical reasons for the more recent liturgical emphasis on the day’s dual themes: most people won’t be coming back during the week, so they need to hear the crucifixion story now. The church needs to make sure that the story of Jesus’ death is given its due before acknowledging any reports of resurrection appearances.

But are such practical concerns rationale enough for downplaying the Palm Sunday experience of faith? What is Passion Sunday’s theological raison d’être? Should we really try to hold the palms and the passion together in a single service? Even between Good Friday and Easter Sunday we get a day to move between sorrow and joy, between suffering and glory, between death and life.

Aside from the issue put forth by the author that doing it this way “catches” people who wouldn’t otherwise be present for Holy Week services, is their a valid concern here?  In some sense the story of the entrance into Jerusalem could be called “False Hope Sunday.”  But how else do we make that clear if we set aside the story of the Passion?  Is it possible, we would lose something dear, something important to understanding the central tenet of faith – the resurrection of Christ?


posted by Jon White


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Paul Woodrum

Following the Book of Common Prayer (though many clergy seem to believe that’s optional thereby stepping on the toes of those of who believe it really is common, i.e., approved for the whole church and intended for all as set forth), the Palm rite is the set up for the Passion. At least in Matthew and Luke it is immediately followed by Jesus attack on the commercialization of the Temple thereby giving the Temple and secular authorities an excuse to act without unduly upsetting the Passover pilgrims to Jerusalem. If anything, the entrance into Jerusalem is in-your-face on the part of Jesus and threatening to the establishment’s profitable and protective order, leading straight to arrest and crucifixion.

William Moorhead

Many many years ago my colleague Charles Peek said, of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, “It begins with a defeat that looks for all the world like a victory, and moves on to a victory that appears to everyone to be a defeat.” I stand by my previous statement: “The Palm Gospel without the Passion Gospel is cheap grace.” The “triumphal” entry has meaning only within the context of the impending crucifixion. Yes, it would be great if everyone attended all the Holy Week services. Good luck with that. (I’ve been doing it all my life, and I don’t find Maundy Thursday “backtracking.” At least in the past, we tended to make Maundy Thursday too festive, as if it were the Feast of Corpus Christi. It isn’t. It’s part of the Passion story.)

The Rev. Timothy Fleck

Discordance is exactly the point. Jesus is juxtaposing his own mock-triumphal entry into Jerusalem with the deadly-serious entry of Pilate and the guard on the other side of town. The dramatic dissonance between Jesus’ street theatre and the Empire’s iron-fisted response is what this day is all about.

Cynthia Katsarelis

My medieval scholar spouse notes that for a long while “Passion Sunday” was the 5th Sunday of Lent and marked the beginning of a two-week time called Passiontide, but got fused with Palm Sunday at some point.

I’m very sympathetic to the idea that Palm Sunday through the Easter Vigil is one long story. However, it would be dreadful for the people who only come on Sundays to see the triumphalism of the entry into Jerusalem and joy of the Resurrection, without the experiencing the agony of the Passion.

Perhaps the solution needs to be made at the parish level. The more Anglo-Catholic ones are likely to have more participation in the Triduum.

Lionel Deimel

I don’t buy the “cheap grace” argument or the “we’ve always done it that way” argument. I made a case for removing the Passion Gospel from Palm Sunday in my essay “The Big Mistake.” Holy Week services are a dramatic whole. We should encourage people to attend Palm Sunday and the following Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening. If they show up on Easter, fine, but it is just another Sunday.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café