On Sunday, Catholic and many Protestant Christians in Charlotte and around the world ushered in Holy Week with Palm Sunday.
At the 11 a.m. service at Matthews United Methodist Church, children paraded into the sanctuary while members of the congregation waved palms from the pews.
The church, founded in 1877, now has 3,800 members and is known for its youth ministry and its generosity with missions.
Palm Sunday, which comes a week before Easter Sunday, recalls Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem atop a donkey. According to the Gospel accounts, he was treated like a king, with palm fronds thrown before his path amid shouts of “Hosanna!”
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The cheer of Palm Sunday will be followed this week with Maundy or Holy Thursday, when Christians will remember Jesus’ Last Supper with his apostles, when he introduced the Eucharist. It was also when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of those apostles. Then, on Good Friday, Christians will commemorate Jesus’ death on a cross.
And then next Sunday, on Easter, the most important day on the Christian calendar, Protestants and Catholic churchgoers will again rejoice, marking Jesus’ resurrection from with cries of “He is risen!”
Orthodox Christians follow a different calendar. For them, “Pascha,” the word they prefer to Easter, will be celebrated on April 12 this year. “Pascha” is derived from the Hebrew word “Pesach,” which means Passover – the Jewish holiday Jesus and his apostles were marking when they gathered for what Christians call the Last Supper.
Traditionally, the palms waved or formed into tiny crosses on Palm Sunday are burned. The ashes are then used for Ash Wednesday – the start of Lent – the next year.
The Holy Week tradition began in Jerusalem in about the fourth century, with Christian pilgrims visiting what they believed were the sites mentioned in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ Passion.