BREWER, Maine — Worshippers at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church held their palm fronds high Sunday morning and let the wind whip them to and fro.
A few shouted, “Peace be with you” and “Hosanna” as they walked into a cold wind.
Some drivers traveling on North Main Street turned their heads in amazement, while others honked their horns in support of the congregation’s Palm Sunday re-enactment.
Christians around the world marked the beginning of Holy Week in a similar manner Sunday. The liturgy to be used this week will follow Jesus through his betrayal, Crucifixion, death and, finally, his Resurrection on Easter.
The Palm Sunday journey, retold in the Gospel of John, says that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for Passover and sent his disciples ahead to bring him a young donkey on which to ride. The Gospel recounts that a great crowd, in the city for the Jewish celebration, heard Jesus was coming into the city and took the branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, waving the palms as he passed by.
Most worshippers nowadays are happy to keep their palms indoors. St. Patrick’s prefers to take its Palm Sunday celebration to the street.
Theresa Copeland has attended St. Patrick’s all of her 16 years. Since she could walk, Copeland has taken part in the annual procession of the palms.
“It’s real important for us as church community,” she said after serving as an acolyte for the service. “But some people look really confused when they see us.”
Others, Copeland said, honk their horns and smile just as some did Sunday morning as the 40 or so worshippers walked several blocks north on North Main Street before returning to their sanctuary.
“Today, we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem,” the Rev. Emily Gibson, interim rector at St. Patrick’s, said in her homily, “and begin to see how we are called to follow his path.”
She urged members of her congregation during Holy Week to ask themselves each day, “What can I offer to God?
“The more we offer, the more we will find,” Gibson said.
This year, Western Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians will observe their most sacred Sunday on the same date — April 4. Most years, the two mark the Resurrection of Christ on different dates.
Western Christians use the Gregorian calendar to calculate when Easter will fall. The Eastern Orthodox Church continues to use the Julian calendar to set the date for Easter. Both traditions determine Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon that happens upon or is the next after the vernal equinox, which usually falls on March 21. If the full moon is on a Sunday, then Easter is the next Sunday.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, however, still observes the rule laid down by the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 — Easter shall never precede or coincide with the first day of Passover, but must always follow it. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder, Orthodox Christians point out.
The two Easters also will overlap next year on April 24.