5 April 2020

Palm Sunday (3)

The admirable Fr Thurston, I have argued, may not have spotted all the exciting possibilities of the Palm Sunday Rites in the Missal of S Pius V. He writes: "It is a regrettable fact that in many of our Catholic churches the oldest and certainly most interesting portion of the ritual of Palm Sunday is too often not carried out". Interesting! Apparently, palms were blessed and distributed, but in 'many' churches there was no Procession! This was also once the 'moderate' Anglican practice, because processions were High Church. The Blessing and Distribution of Sacramentals, apparently, was not!

"The whole essence of the ceremonies peculiar to this day lies in the procession." [Thurston's italic.]

This fundamental assumption lay, too, at the basis of the Pacelli-Bugnini changes in 1955.

"... we can only admire the piety which leads the faithful to preserve [their palms] thoughout the year ... [but] the boughs were consecrated primarily to be used in the procession ...".

Well ... ... up to a point, Lord Copper. But the next prayer calls these olive branches a 'tuae gratiae sacramentum'. This interesting phraseology must go back to before the word 'sacramentum' had had its meaning limited by the precisions of systematic theology (O'Connell/Finberg nervously translate it 'sacred symbol'). But it was, surely, even then a strong word.

I think we may have here a genuine deepening of understanding resulting in a, frankly, more sophisticated appropriation both of Scripture and of Ritual. The much despised peasant kneeling and kissing her palm cross and carefully preserving it throughout the year may, just possibly, have been onto something which Archbishop Bugnini and Papa Pacelli never quite spotted.


Unknown said...

I have preserved all of my blessed palms since becoming a Catholic twelve years ago. Earlier this morning I placed a palm cross on the exterior of the door of my home and a palm on the exterior back door that opens to a shared space. I felt I had to make a public expression of the Catholic faith at this time even though only two people will see it. It is an encouragement to read this article after having done so. Thank you Fr Hunwicke.

Rubricarius said...

I am firmly with the despised peasant on this as she clearly understood, if not intellectually but instinctively, what her blessed Palm represented.

If one looks at what the various collects ask for not only is there tuae gratiae sacramentum but numerous other implorations that the recipients of the Palms receive blessings and protection from keeping the Palms in their homes not just for carrying them in the procession. The Palms are clearly a symbol of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord and Palm Sunday an anticipation of the events of the week ahead and a mimetic representation of them. The collect before the reading from Exodus is an invitation to enter the mystery.

On the subject of such anticipation there is an excellent series of articles by Gregory DiPippo on New Liturgical Movement.

Banshee said...

Palms are good sacramentals for the safety of the house.