Distributing blessed palm branches to the faithful on the feast of Palm Sunday is one of the spiritual customs of the Armenian Church as well as of the other Churches belonging to the Universal Church.
Celebration of Palm Sunday throughout Armenia
This tradition marks Christ’s triumphant entry to Jerusalem when Jews met Him with olive and palm branches (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-40, John 12:12-19). The offering of branches symbolizes several things. First, it shows God’s mercy towards man through the olive branch (which the dove brought to Noah, showing that the flood waters had receded) and the victory over sin, death and Satan through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection through the palm leaves.
Armenian Church Palm Sunday Holy Mass in Abu Dhabi
Second, in ancient times, humanity worshiped the tree and offered its branches to the idols of demons. Using this same gesture, the Jewish people inspired by the Holy Spirit, offered branches to Jesus, after they discovered that He was the True God. This is just as the wise men presented their mysterious gifts to Him in the cave in Bethlehem – gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Armenian Apostolic Church Sydney Palm Sunday
Third, as God cursed the earth for the original sin committed by Adam and Eve: “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; . . . .” (Genesis 3:18) the faithful laid green branches in front of the Lord in order to spare Him their curse of bringing thorns.
Palm Sunday – USA Bayside, New York
Fourth, during the Olympic Games in ancient times, the winners were crowned with olive wreaths. The faithful understood that Jesus defeated death by resurrecting Lazarus (John 11:30-46) and met Him with palm branches as He was the winning King.
In commemoration of Lord’s triumphant entry to Jerusalem with greetings of the tree branches, blessed olive and palm branches are distributed to the faithful, according to the ancient tradition of Christian Churches, on the feast of “Our Lord’s entrance to Jerusalem on a donkey” (Palm Sunday). These branches symbolically admonish them to grow, blossom and give fruit by the divine graces gifted to them and keep the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ, “But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23).
Though the distribution of blessed branches on Palm Sunday became universal in all the churches, in each other trees, besides palm and olive branches, were also used for blessing. This was mainly due to the environmental conditions of the church region. In Armenia, at the direction of our church fathers, the preference was given to willow branches.
Palm Sunday service at Samatya Turkey Surp Kevork Armenian Church
But why exactly willow branches? St. Gregory of Datev gives his interpretation in this respect presenting the spiritual meanings ascribed to the willow branches. Accordingly, the willow tree first of all stands for the nations other than the Jews, as the latter were lost in idolatry and were devoid of the faith in true God. When the willow branch is planted in the wet soil it immediately gives roots and grows. Likewise, when non-Jewish nations were enlightened with the sunlight of Justice, they truly believed in the only Begotten Son of God and their vital roots deepened in the fertile soil of faith.
Armenian Church Palm Sunday in St. Kevork church in Moscow
On Palm Sunday the blessed willow branches are distributed to the faithful. However today in the Armenian Church the blessing of the willow branches is not conducted according to a canonized ceremony. During the morning service after the ceremony of blessing the four corners of the earth the branches are delivered to the Armenian faithful.
The Armenian Diocese in Argentina
It is tradition for the blessed branches to be kept the whole year round until the next Palm Sunday. It is desirable that the blessed branches should decorate the sacred corner of the home.
Armenian Quarter to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Israel
After replacing the old branches with the new ones the former ones must be burnt. According to accepted tradition the old branches are burnt during the fire lit on the eve of the Feast of the Lord’s Presentation to the Temple (Tyarnendaraj).
Palm Sunday at Antelias Lebanon, Armenian Catholicosate!
It is strongly recommended that the faithful offer green branches to the churches before the ceremony of blessing of the branches.