Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Today begins the 8 days of Holy Week. Robert Rees has argued eloquently that Mormons ought to join (much of) the rest of the Christian world in the traditional celebration of the events leading up to Easter. However, we don’t really have any template for what a Mormon celebration of Holy Week might look like. Fortunately for everyone, I don’t have such a template in mind, either. My little offering will be just a hymn and a poem for each day–feel free to chime in with your own, or with ideas about how to celebrate Easter and its prelude…

Hymn: Ride On, Ride On in Majesty

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes hosanna cry;
thy humble beast pursues his 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 angel armies of the sky
Look down with sad and wond’ring eyes
To see th’approaching sacrifice.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
The Father on his sapphire throne
Expects his own anointed Son.


I love that last image–the Father waiting for the Son to come home. It reminds me, somehow, of how I felt at the end of pregnancy, dreading the pain between, but longing for that moment of welcome…

And here’s a poem, by Henry Vaughan (1622-1695)



Thou, whose sad heart, and weeping head lies low,

Whose cloudy breast cold damps invade,


Who never feel’st the sun, nor smooth’st thy brow,

But sitt’st oppressed in the shade,

Awake, awake,

And in his Resurrection partake,

Who on this day (that thou might’st rise as he,)

Rose up, and cancelled two deaths due to thee.

Awake, awake; and, like the sun, disperse

All mists that would usurp this day;

Where are thy palms, thy branches, and thy verse?

Hosanna! hark; why dost thou stay?

Arise, arise,

And with his healing blood anoint thine eyes,

Thy inward eyes; his blood will cure thy mind,

Whose spittle only could restore the blind.


  1. There’s also this discussion here.

  2. Thanks, Kristine. I think a Mormon Holy Week would be a splendid thing. Yesterday there were many people walking around here with a little sprig which they had blessed at church. I wish I’d thought about it earlier and planned to go to a Palm Sunday service. Thanks again.

  3. The poems are beautiful. Thanks.

    Considering the theatrical and liturgical nature of celebrations generally, it is hard to imagine what a Mormon Holy Week would look like. But I always think it’s nice when speakers or those conducting in church at least acknowledge the Christian calendar (and the Jewsih, for that matter), and perhaps appropriate music is chosen and performed. Last year someone gave a wicked good talk on the Holy Ghost on the Sunday after Pentecost.

    My father (being a Lutheran convert) always led our family in a themed FHE. We would do a palm procession, etc., and acted out a last supper. On Easter, we would listen to the Messiah in the afternoon after church or conference.

    Here in Finland, kids dress up like witches on Palm Sunday and go door to door offering decorated willow branches in return for candy or money.

  4. Norbert, sounds great.

    I paid a visit to St. Paul’s yesterday after the Priesthood Session. There is great value in witnessing and learning about the traditions of creedal Christians at Easter.

  5. Our stake has an Easter music program on Easter Sunday. One year they had each ward prepare one or two songs to perform. This year I think they’re doing a sing-a-long.

    With our kids, we have 21 plastic Easter eggs that have objects inside telling the story of the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection. Each night we open one egg, reading the scripture that goes along with the object in the egg (palm branch, rooster, crouton and sacrament cup, sword, rope, nail, etc).

  6. Kristine says:

    Norbert–that’s cool. Any idea how that became a Palm Sunday tradition? Is it one of those weird Christians-coopting-local-festivals things?

    Also, I thought the phrase “wicked good” was exclusively a Boston phenomenon…

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    I like the idea of a Mormon holy week, but I don’t see it happening on any sort of official or grand scale. So I think the options are either a familial do-it-yourself approach, or to just glom on to the worship of a high-worship tradition in your area for that week. Why reinvent the wheel?

  8. Matt W. says:

    Catholicism definitely has the best holy week traditions. It’s what I miss from my youth in religion.

    On Sunday we’d have the Palm Sunday mass where the whole congregation would take our palm leaves and walk around the church outside. I was an alter boy, so I lead the way with either cross or candle or incense, depending on the year. (Then after church we’d attempt to make crosses out of our little bits of palm and hang them on the wall)

    During the week, there would be several opportunities to go through the stations of the cross, which is a beautiful tradition I recommend to everyone. (We should really make a Mormon version of it) Every year we’d sing “where you there when they crucified my lord?”

    On Friday, there’d be a ceremony where we all kissed the feet of Jesus on the crucifix. (I’ve been tempted on a number of occasions to return to that, but don’t ant to cheapen the Catholics of their experience by being an interloper.)

    And on Sunday, it was Easter.

  9. Kristine: I think so. My first year here, I saw some advertising for Easter, and there was an egg, a rabbit and a witch…hmm. I’m trying to get a post on my site about this tonight or tomorrow.

  10. i love Easter. Thanks for the image. One of my favorite Easter memories was waking up from a train ride into Tallinn, Estonia and discovering I had misread the schedules and missed a time change, so I had the city just after a 5am dawn seemingly to myself. I cherished the quiet anticipation and the legacy of devotion I felt around the ancient churches and the cobblestone walks.

    Holy Week is probably more important than Whitsun/Pentecost, but I wouldn’t mind a little Whitsuntide celebration now and again. The Roman liturgical calendar was (and is) such a wonderful narrative celebration of the believer’s life. Even if I won’t celebrate the feast of John the Baptist or other named day, I’m still glad to encounter the ritual calendar on a regular basis.

  11. This morning I received on my doorstep a pamphlet from my stake presidency with a letter in celebration of Easter and Holy Week and a recitation of the Savior’s activities during holy week and scripture refereces. The pamphlet is entitled “The Week of Atoning Sacrifice.” Is this a churchwide thing? I like it. It seems like a good tool to use to approach a celebration of Holy Week.

  12. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    Great idea Kristine, a lovely way to celebrate this Holy Week, I’ll look forward to reading the hymn and poem each day. I do love the ritual leading up to Easter Sunday, solemn and celebratory at the same time. After years of following the stations of the cross during Semana Santa, it’s hard to break completely with the mentality of this whole week as a special one.

    There’s a wonderful service at many Christian churches this Thursday that anyone interested might check out. Tenebrae is a mass where all the ornamentation in the church is removed or covered and the service is held by the light of a few candles, each extinguished as the service goes on. The service ends in complete darkness, sometimes with congregants pounding on pews or benches to simulate a great noise. It’s a simple and special way to contemplate Christ’s death and without communion or ornamentation, it avoids clashing with Mormon sensibilities.

  13. Kristine says:

    Melissa, I sing in the choir at an Episcopal church, and we do Tenebrae Wednesday, then a Maundy Thursday service that has ritual washing of feet, then Good Friday, then Easter Vigil Saturday night. It would be interesting to do a comparison of Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican rites, and also which Protestant churches have picked up which bits of the tradition…

  14. Kristine said:

    I love that last image–the Father waiting for the Son to come home. It reminds me, somehow, of how I felt at the end of pregnancy, dreading the pain between, but longing for that moment of welcome…

    I read once – maybe here on BCC – that if you think about it, the circle of blood which Christ’s thorn crown left on his head is a clear visual symbol that His death is His rebirth. Apparently, when a baby is born, the process leaves such a circle of blood on its head?

    Anyway, thank you for this post, Kristine.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    Kristine, I just love that you sing with the Episcopal choir (which I knew). That is quite a time commitment this week in particular, I’m sure, but well worth it.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, I forgot to ask, Krisitine, how did it come about that you started singing with an Episcopalian choir? I’m sure there’s an interesting backstory to that.

  17. Kristine says:

    Kevin, the backstory isn’t terribly noble–I started singing with other churches’ choirs in college when I discovered they paid their singers. It’s a good practice, one which I wish our church would adopt :)

  18. woodboy says:

    yes, but how did you start singing with this particular Episcopal choir I wonder? I’m sure that is an interesting story… Tenebrae was traditionally done at 3 am wednesday night/thursday morning, and interestingly is the service where Allegri’s famous Miserere mei Deus (Psalm 51) was performed in the Sistine Chapel once a year.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    You get paid to sing? Wow! That just shows you how Mormon I am; that never would have occurred to me. Yeah, if we adopted it, we might actually be able to field a choir. Our ward tries every couple of years or so, and then it limps along for awhile, and then it disbands for lack of interest. There is usually me and one other man who are the only reliable male singers; the women do better, but not much.

    What would really juice our choir participation would be if they would let us practice during SS; then we’d have our own little MoTab going.

  20. Kevin, your bishop should just “call” a dozen people or so to the choir. That is how Mormons do it–no need to pay them.


  1. […] real problem with Holy Week celebrations, Kristine, isn’t Nate’s theory about high versus low church and liturgy and ritual. The real […]

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