I am not very crafty. Truth. But it doesn’t stop me from trying.
A couple years ago I noticed old palms being returned to my church in advance of Ash Wednesday in various styles of crosses. That’s pretty cool, I thought. So after Palm Sunday I gave it a whirl. It was easy, and I now do it with each year’s palms and tuck them behind picture frames or over a doorway. They help me remember that the truth of the palms is not easy.
As Catholics, we keep palms as a public display of loyalty to Christ, who by laying down His life became our Redeemer. As such He is the King of our homes, and palms are a great everyday reminder—a touchpoint of our belief—of the ultimate sacrifice He gave for others, even those who don’t believe.
Symbolism and Importance of the Palms
In the Catholic Church the palms are blessed; they are physically prayed over by a priest or bishop, just as is the Eucharist, the gifts of bread and wine—body and blood of Christ. In so doing they become sacramentals, or sacred in the eyes of the Church.
Think about it this way. As Jesus entered into Jerusalem, just one week before beginning his Passion, the multitudes gathered, rejoicing and laying their cloaks and palm branches on the ground in preparation for His approach. Why? Because that’s how a king or victor was welcomed home from war or conquest. It was a sign of respect and admiration; it was public acknowledgement of something or someone great or revered. A New Testament advance homage to today’s “red carpet” ceremonies…sort of, but waaay more important.
And just as the blessing over the body and blood of Christ Jesus on the altar each Mass is meant to prepare us to receive the blessed sacraments, the blessing of the palms is a means of preparation for celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where He was hailed by some, erroneously, as the coming political savior, and by others as the Messiah He truly was.
In blessing the palms they become Sacramentals; that means they should be treated with respect. They cannot merely be thrown away, discarded with the trash and the leftovers in the fridge you never got around to finishing. Nope. Palms may only be burned or buried. They require our care and attention, long after they become brown and dry and brittle. If we’re not careful in doing so, if we don’t pay attention to the seemingly small things like sacred items, how much more likely are we to grow dry and brittle in our relationship with God, rejoicing openly only on occasions like Palm Sunday when there’s an extra special something in the Mass? Take care. It’s in the small things that we are meant to see the Big Picture; it’s in the small things that we foster greater love for the TRUE KING.
I try to seek out the Truth in the everyday of things, and the simple, routine steps of making a palm cross gives me a small but fruitful way of paying attention to the sacred throughout the year, each time I see one tucked behind a picture frame.