Palm Sunday

St. Giles’ Cathedral

A Palm Sunday Devotion

April 5 2020


Felix Mendelssohn Heilig, heilig ist Gott, der Herr Zebaoth (Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth)


Matthew 21: 1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”


Not for us, this Palm Sunday, our tradition of handing out the palm crosses, processing around the Cathedral and singing “Ride on, ride on in majesty.” This Palm Sunday will be quiet, subdued, filled with irony as we try to concur with government advice to postpone normal life in order to save lives.

The Palm Sunday procession into Jerusalem is replete with cruel irony. We know that the celebratory shouts of ‘ Hosanna’  this Sunday will be extinguished by the callous shouts of ‘Crucify’ on Friday.  That the disciples’ attendance on Jesus will be forgotten as they, each in their own way, disperse, deny and betray him in the coming days. That the Pharisees complaint, “the world has gone after him!” will prove to be prophetic as the world ‘goes after him’ with cruelty and violence and ultimately execution on the cross. Irony that the one hailed as ‘King of Israel’ enters the city on the humblest of the beasts of burden, as he is prepared to take on the burden he knows is in front of him.

And in all this Jesus is passive – he lets these things happen, does not try to change the course of events bearing down on him – that is why we speak of the ‘passion’ of Jesus (from the Latin for suffering or enduring.)

Henri Nouwen reflects on seeing a medieval German statue of ‘Christ on the palm donkey’ in a museum in Freiburg.  How the sculptor has captured in the face of Christ, ‘melancholy but also peaceful acceptance.’ But above all for Nouwen there is love, ”an endless, deep and far-reaching love born from an unbreakable intimacy with God and reaching out to all people, wherever they are, were or will be.”

In this beautiful irony is our hope, this Palm Sunday and always.

This week’s hymn: Ride on, ride on in majesty


Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hark, all the tribes hosanna cry.
O Saviour meek, pursue thy road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
The wingèd squadrons of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh:
the Father on his sapphire throne
awaits his own anointed Son.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, thy power, and reign.

Henry Hart Milman 1791-1868


Ride on, ride on in majesty, Holy Jesus,
that your love would reach out
into the farthest corners of our world
and of our hearts.

Hear our prayers for our world
in the midst of this pandemic.
Grant your strength and resolve
to those at the front lines of treating the sick,
testing for illness, searching for a vaccine;
bring healing to the sick,
make your presence known
to those who near death;
comfort those who mourn a loved one.
We pray in the strong name of Jesus, saviour.



May the King of angels bless you and protect you this day and for ever. Amen

Organ Voluntary J.S.Bach Valet will ich dir geben BWV 736