We enter on Palm Sunday the last throes of Holy Church’s liturgical glory and self-emptying before her death during the Sacred Triduum and her resurrection at Easter. The Church, liturgically and sacramentally, goes with Christ in procession to Jerusalem to fulfil His saving mission. When we participate in these rites, we truly participate in the mysteries they celebrate and represent. Sacramental reality is no less real than sensible reality.

On Palm Sunday, Father blesses palms for our own processions before Holy Mass. In some places, such as Rome, olive branches are used. In Germany, you might find boxwood branches. Our Eastern brethren use sallow catkins, also called pussy willows. In the traditional Roman Rite the priest blesses our branches, saying:

“Bless, ☩ we beseech Thee, O Lord, these branches of palm [or olive or other trees]: and grant that what Thy people today bodily perform for Thy honour, they may perfect spiritually with the utmost devotion, by gaining the victory over the enemy, and ardently loving every work of mercy.”

Speaking of works of mercy, note how the prayer connects the branches, distributed to the hands of every person present, with their own merciful works.

The Synoptic Gospels recount that, on His way up to Jerusalem to die, the Lord healed a blind beggar, Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus cried out and cried out for mercy until Christ stopped and healed his blindness. Thereupon he followed the Lord. I imagine that, in that first week of his recovery of sight, Bartimaeus watched in awe as, in the temple, Christ healed other beggars as he had been healed (Matthew 21:14).

I have in my mind’s eye Bartimaeus going to them afterwards, seeking the newly sighted in particular, to share together the special joy only they could understand.

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