Palm Sunday is known as such because the faithful will often receive palm fronds which they use to participate in the reenactment of Christ's arrival in Jerusalem. In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a young donkey, and to the lavish praise of the townspeople who threw clothes, or possibly palms or small branches, in front of him as a sign of homage. This was a customary practice for people of great respect.
Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory, hence their preferred use on Palm Sunday.
The use of a donkey instead of a horse is highly symbolic, it represents the humble arrival of someone in peace, as opposed to arriving on a steed in war.
A week later, Christ would rise from the dead on the first Easter.
During Palm Sunday Mass, palms are distributed to parishioners who carry them in a ritual procession into church. The palms are blessed and many people will fashion them into small crosses or other items of personal devotion. These may be returned to the church, or kept for the year.
Because the palms are blessed, they may not be discarded as trash. Instead, they are appropriately gathered at the church and incinerated to create the ashes that will be used in the follow year's Ash Wednesday observance.
The colors of the Mass on Palm Sunday are red and white, symbolizing the redemption in blood that Christ paid for the world.
As we are unable to meet in the flesh as one body we pray:
Heavenly Father, we acknowledge our dependence upon you. This virus has reminded us of our frailty. We have subdued much of the earth with our innovation and creative acts, but we are reminded in this moment how frail and powerless we really are. So we repent of our self-sufficiency and hubris.
Lord, we lament the fallen nature of our world, which mars the beauty of your created order. COVID-19 comes to steal and destroy, to worm its way through human bodies and spread its vile sickness across communities and nations and the world. We, like your Son, weep and rage at sickness and death. And yet we know that it was Jesus whose death and resurrection defeated this final foe. We long for the day you resurrect our bodies and restore the world.
As we endure this new normal in our lives, we pray earnestly for the heroic medical doctors, nurses, and health care professionals who are putting their lives on the line for their neighbors. May you give them strength and physical immunity during this time, so they can help push back against this ravaging virus.
We pray for the scientists, disease experts, and epidemiologists who are working feverishly on vaccines and testing mechanisms. Lord, we thank you for gifting them with knowledge and wisdom we don’t have. We pray for their endurance, for breakthroughs, and for resources.
Lord, you are the Great Physician, so we pray for healing for the victims of COVID-19. Lord, you are the Creator, with power over the creation, so we pray for COVID-19 to be destroyed. Spirit of God, you are the Comforter, so please comfort our troubled souls.
Dear God, move in the hearts of our public officials. As you have instructed us in your Word, we earnestly beseech you on behalf of our president, Congress, governors, mayors, and local officials. We pray you guide them with wisdom and strength and discernment.
We also pray for the people in our nation and the nations of the world to be humbled and turn to you in repentance and faith. We know you are the Prince of peace, Lord of lords, the King of kings. We praise you for your goodness and your mercy. And we ask this all in the name of Jesus, our Lord.