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At Palm Sunday, there are two gospel readings:

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

  • The gospel which describes the Procession with Palms
  • The gospel which described the Lord's passion

Why is the Lord's Passion read on Palm Sunday? Shouldn't the Palm Sunday be a time for joy and rejoicing and the reading of the Passion reserved for the Paschal Triduum?

My question concerns the Roman Catholic tradition.

  • Had the cross not happened there would be no joy. – curiousdannii Sep 25 '16 at 21:18
  • Ok. Thanks for your comment (and the downvote). But, tbh, I still don't understand why the reading takes place on Palm Sunday. Best regards. J. Howards – J. Howards Sep 25 '16 at 21:23
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    The Catholic Church requires attendance at mass on Sundays; it does not require (though it recommends) attendance at mass on other days of Holy Week. By reading the passion on Palm Sunday, it ensures that those who obey the requirements (but nothing more) will hear the passion, which seems like a good idea. I don't know, though, whether this is the original reason for reading the passion on Palm Sunday (and that's why this is a comment and not an answer). – Andreas Blass Sep 25 '16 at 23:18
  • Thank you @LeeWoofenden for the warm welcome and the useful information. Best regards – J. Howards Sep 29 '16 at 15:47
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The Passion is read "by anticipation" on Palm Sunday. Although that day begins joyfully with the ceremony of the palms, it ends with a "character of sacred gloom," as the liturgist Dom Prosper Guérenger, O.S.B., puts it in his The Liturgical Year (vol. 6), p. 200:

The third part of to-day's service [for Palm Sunday] is the offering of the holy Sacrifice. The portions that are sung by the choir¹ are expressive of the deepest desolation; and the history of our Lord's Passion, which is now to be read by anticipation, gives to the rest of the day that character of sacred gloom, which we all know so well. For the last five or six centuries, the Church has adopted a special chant² for this narrative of the holy Gospel. The historian, or the evangelist, relates the events in a tone that is at once grave and pathetic; the words of our Saviour are sung to a solemn yet sweet melody, which strikingly contrasts with the high dominant³ of the several other interlocutors and the Jewish populace. During the singing of the Passion, the faithful should hold their palms in their hands, and, by this emblem of triumph, protest against the insults offered to Jesus by His enemies. As we listen to each humiliation and suffering, all of which were endured out of love for us, let us offer Him our palm as to our dearest Lord and King. When should we be more adoring, than when He is most suffering?

¹See the "Palm Sunday" section here.
²cf. pp. 30-40 of this 1957 guide by Solesmes.
³i.e., a high-pitched fifth

  • Thank you very much @Geremia for this very thorough and detailed answer. Much appreciated. Best regards. – J. Howards Sep 29 '16 at 15:48
  • I wish to add that all Catholic rites do not prescribe the reading on passion on Palm Sunday. For instance, the Syro Malabar Catholic rite of southern India has the Gospel reading on Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem for Palm Sunday liturgy, with no alternative reading.. – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan Oct 6 '16 at 15:52

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