Sunday, March 28, 2010



Palmesel means palm donkey in German, but most often refers to a statue of Christ on a donkey. These statues were mounted on a wheeled platform and used in Palm Sunday processions.

I note that in the statue illustrated above, Jesus appears to have a receding hairline. Take heart all you guys who have less than a full, luxuriant growth of hair on your heads. Perhaps Jesus was one of you.

Sunday I missed going to church because I took the Katrina disaster tour, with Scout of First Draft as the tour guide. She knows her way around New Orleans, especially the devastated areas, like a native, although she lives in Wisconsin. It was a strange, but perhaps appropriate initiation into Holy Week.

So far, I have not yet adjusted to the compression of Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday into one Sunday. With this arrangement, we move from Jesus riding triumphant - albeit on a donkey, a lowly animal compared to a horse - with the crowds shouting "Hosanna in the highest!" and waving palm branches to an abrupt thrust into the Passion story and Holy Week.

I've just finished reading the Passion of Our Lord from Matthew's Gospel. Often when I'm reading something familiar, certain words will leap out to grab my attention, words that I have taken little note of in previous readings. Today the words were from Matthew 26:56, "Then all the disciples deserted him and fled."

How many times have I deserted Jesus and fled from him? More often than I'd like, I'm ashamed to say. Perhaps that's fertile ground for meditation during this Holy Week.

Note: Reposted with slight editing after Palm Sunday three years ago, the day after a group of us gutted a house in Gentilly in New Orleans under the auspices of ACORN, which is now defunct as an organization. A family now lives in the renovated house.

Photo from The Cloisters - A Medieval Art Museum in Fort Tyron Park, New York City.

UPDATE: Doorman-Priest quotes from The Last Week by Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan on the competing processions into Jerusalem by Jesus and Pontius Pilate.


  1. Love the statue. Today we had 40 minutes (our usual 8 a.m. service before the 9 a.m. service) to move from Palms to Passion. The 9 a.m. group is only doing the palm part and telling people to come on Thursday eve to hear the rest - hope they do. We blessed the palms (I thought briefly of blessing their palms - as in hands - but did not do it in the end). I preached on Jesus entry into the city - and how much the beginning might be like when we enter our valley looking out over the whole town and perhaps they might think about praying each time the crest the hill. Wore my "stones" stole - a friend made me a red stole with the ends in a fabric that has an actual photo on fabric of stones - like on a beach or river bottom. We did Eucharist - and after the post-communion prayer we read the Passion Gospel in parts - with them taking the Jesu part altogether - to remind them that we are Christ's body in the world. Went out in silence.

  2. I reposted, because I didn't have much time before church and also because I love the Palmesal.

    The 9 a.m. group is only doing the palm part and telling people to come on Thursday eve to hear the rest - hope they do.

    More and more, I find the Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday to be jarring. We don't have time to ponder the implications of the entrance to Jerusalem narrative before we're rather abruptly pulled into the Passion story. I'd like to focus on the Passion Gospel later in Holy Week.

    Blessing palms of hands on Palm Sunday is a lovely idea.

  3. Thanks for the free ad!

    Have a blessed Holy Week.

  4. DP, Tom wants me to start making money for all the time that I spend on my blog, so next time the ad may not be free. ;-)

    You have a good Holy Week, too.

  5. Hi--

    I agree about the schizophrenic nature of the day, which apparently results from the joining of Palm Sunday (as the last event in the Epiphany series) to Holy Week--in effect, Lent was stuck into Epiphany between the old commemoration of the raising of Lazarus and Palm Sunday, and the whole business was attached to the penitential preparation for the Paschal Triduum.

    FWIW, though, the Prayer Book gospel for this Sunday has (I believe) always been the passion Gospel (from Matthew, until the '78 book). In terms of the Anglican / Episcopal tradition, it's the liturgy of the Palms that's the new addition...

  6. 4 May, if memory serves, in the RCC when I was growing up, Palm Sunday was followed by Passion Sunday, which was the Sunday before Easter. Then Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday were merged.

  7. Hi--

    That would have been logical, wouldn't it? Actually, though, Passion Sunday was _two_ weeks before Easter, then Palm Sunday. There was a two-week long subsection of Lent called "Passiontide," beginning with Passion Sunday and ending with Easter. The gospel on Passion Sunday, however, wasn't the Passion, but rather John 8:46, the "Before Abraham was, I AM" passage. (This was the case in both pre-Vatican II RC lectionary and BCP, I believe.)

  8. 4 May, you're right. I had the order of the two Sundays reversed, but I remembered that the two stories were not always compressed into one service.


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