I remember the Palm Sundays of my childhood and our family going up to Grandma and Grandpa’s after Mass where we would enjoy juice and rolls, and try to learn how to fold our palms into the shape of a cross. Folding those palms into any shape seemed to take the skill of my grandmother who knew how to crochet and my mom and aunts whom I assume spent years in a Japanese school for origami. In the end I was content to simply hang the palm in my room in its natural form.
Palm branches were a symbol of victory in the Roman Empire. In the introductory Gospel heard at Mass today we read about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as people laid down their cloaks and waved their palm branches. In the eyes of the world this account would seem like a huge blunder on the part of the “fools” who honored Jesus that day. Within the week Jesus would be shamefully hanging on the cross.
But it all fits so perfectly in the eyes of a Christian. Jesus’ victory is not accomplished in the way we would first expect or perhaps desire. His victory is deeper than physical healings and political victories. Jesus goes to the root. Sin and death are the greatest tragedies of all, and Jesus conquers them with his own death on the cross.
It is typical to place palms in our house, so take your palm’s home today and stick them behind the crucifix hanging on your wall. The palm and the crucifix are a perfect match. As the palm was the sign of victory and triumph in the ancient world, the cross is the sign of victory and triumph for the Christian.
Have a great Holy Week,