April 18, 2024

Palm Sunday is the start of the Holy Week, a Christian feast commemorating the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem greeted by the people waving palm branches. It is a reminder for Christians to welcome Jesus into their hearts and their willingness to follow Him.
The palm branch was sacred in the Mesopotamian regions as it represented immortality and the symbol of victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life. Jesus was seen riding on a donkey to symbolize peace, instead of on a horse like a king waging war. It also symbolizes the sovereignty of the Messiah (Jesus) over the material world (donkey).
Although it was supposed to be a joyful occasion, the days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is observed with solemnity as a time of devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ. Thus, devotees must reflect on the significance of the sacrifice of Jesus to save humanity and in turn, look within themselves, their lives, if they are measuring up to what is expected of them as Christians.
Upon His arrival in Jerusalem, the Pharisees tried to debate with Jesus about his preaching, principally that He came from God and that only through Him can the people enter the kingdom of God. The authorities put up a reward of 30 pieces of gold to whoever could lead them to His arrest and on Holy Wednesday, Judas a disciple of Jesus talked to the authorities and plotted on how they could find and arrest Jesus. Maundy Thursday is when Jesus had His last supper with his disciples and instituted the Holy Eucharist (holy mass). Good Friday signified the judgment, crucifixion, and death of Jesus at Calvary. Most people asked, so what is good with a Friday when Jesus was sentenced to die, tortured, crucified and died on the cross?
I also asked that question but soon learned the answer, in simple terms, that His death was His ultimate sacrifice so that the sins of man may be forgiven by God, and thus bring mankind closer to Him. The barrier between God and man brought about by the original sin of Adam and Eve was taken down by the death of Jesus. In short, the passion and death of Jesus on Good Friday redeemed man from eternal damnation.
There are customs and traditions that Christians must observe during Holy Week. Our parents were devout Catholics and we were brought up in those traditions, and also the superstitions that came with them.
Considering the solemnity of the occasion, us children must refrain from making any noise or inviting friends to come over to the house. It was not so difficult for us then because we only had a radio and a telephone, no television yet in Baguio. We were not allowed to go out even on a full moon, during which we would usually play group games with our neighborhood friends. We were not allowed to play the piano, guitar, ukelele or harmonica. We must not talk or laugh or sing loudly. We must avoid playing on Good Friday because any wound that may be inflicted would take a very long time to heal. We are prohibited from taking a bath on the said day especially when the clock strikes 3, the hour of death of Jesus. Travelling during Holy Week is taboo because evil spirits are stronger and accidents could happen. That is why we are most usually cooped up at home where on our main door, the palm the we used “palaspas” on Palm Sunday are hanged or displayed on our front door to ward off bad luck and evil spirits.
When we were growing up, our parents would gather us siblings in our jeepney and visit seven churches in Baguio on Maundy Thursday. I recall that we went to the Baguio Cathedral, St. Joseph Church, St. Vincent Church, Don Bosco Church, Little Flower Novitiate, Pink Sisters Novitiate, and the Casiciaco Recoletos Seminary. In each church my mother would lead us to prayers contained in her chaplet but as we grew older, us children were asked to lead the prayers.
After the Visita Iglesia, our family would go home for our dinner of rice and fish but with an ice cream treat for dessert. This was one of the most memorable Holy Week traditions that stuck on my head and which I continued to observe with some college friends during Holy Week until the Holy Week in Baguio was no longer the Holy Week that we have experienced in our younger days.
Here in Barcelona, there are numerous churches to visit for a Visita Iglesia. These are the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, Barcelona Cathedral, Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi, Templo del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus and so many other churches that you can find in every street corner. But, then again, one cannot do a Visita Iglesia on Maunday Thursday for just a few hours because just one of these churches will take your almost half a day to explore and appreciate it.
A blessed Palm Sunday!