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Palm Sunday in 4th c. Jerusalem

Now that Holy Week is here, I was going to have only very light blogging, as this is pretty much the busiest week of the year for this blog’s target audience. Then I remembered that I’ve been meaning for a while to take a close look at Egeria’s description of Holy Week Liturgies in Jerusalem, c. 380, and I thought–why not blog it day by day, alongside what we ourselves are doing in 21st century whereever we may be?

So here’s Palm Sunday. Note that Egeria actually begins with a liturgy on Saturday in Bethany, commemorating Lazarus. I love her description of the procession of the Palms.

Egeria: Translation (Hat tip to Irenic Thoughts for pointing me towards this electronic version.)

Palm Sunday: Services in the Churches.

XXX On the next day, that is, the Lord’s Day, which begins the Paschal week, and which they call here the Great Week, when all the customary services from cockcrow until morning have taken place in the Anastasis and at the Cross, they proceed on the morning of the Lord’s Day according to custom to the greater church, which is called the martyrium. It is called the martyrium because it is in Golgotha behind the Cross, where the Lord suffered.

2. When all that is customary has been observed in the great church, and before the dismissal is made, the archdeacon lifts his voice and says first: ” Throughout the whole week, beginning from to-morrow, let us all assemble in the martyrium, that is, in the great church, at the ninth hour.” Then he lifts his voice again, saying: ” Let us all be ready to-day in Eleona at the seventh hour.”

3. So when the dismissal has been made in the great church! that is, the martyrium, the bishop is escorted with hymns to the Anastasis, and after all things that are customary on the Lord’s Day have been done there, after the dismissal from the martyrium, every one hastens home to eat, that all may be ready at the beginning of the seventh hour in the church in Eleona, on the Mount of Olives, where is the cave in which the Lord was wont to teach.

Procession with Palms on the Mount of Olives.

XXXI Accordingly at the seventh hour all the people go up to the Mount of Olives, that is, to Eleona, and the bishop with them, to the church, where hymns and antiphons suitable to the day and to the place are said, and lessons in like manner. And when the ninth hour approaches they go up with hymns to the Imbomon, that is, to the place whence the Lord ascended into heaven, and there they sit down, for all the people are always bidden to sit when the bishop is present; the deacons alone always stand. Hymns and antiphons suitable to the day and to the place are said, interspersed with lections and prayers.

2. And as the eleventh hour approaches, the passage from the Gospel is read, where the children, carrying branches and palms, met the Lord, saying; Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, and the bishop immediately rises, and all the people with him, and they all go on foot from the top of the Mount of Olives, all the people going before him with hymns and antiphons, answering one to another: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.

3. And all the children in the neighbourhood, even those who are too young to walk, are carried by their parents on their shoulders, all of them bearing branches, some of palms and some of olives, and thus the bishop is escorted in the same manner as the Lord was of old.

4. For all, even those of rank, both matrons and men, accompany the bishop all the way on foot in this manner, making these responses, from the top of the mount to the city, and thence through the whole city to the Anastasis, going very slowly lest the people should be wearied; and thus they arrive at the Anastasis at a late hour. And on arriving, although it is late, lucernare takes place, with prayer at the Cross; after which the people are dismissed.

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