Let the King of Glory Enter In!
After the blessing of Palms which took place in Rome at St Mary Major's, the procession set out for the Stational church of St John Lateran, the cathedral church of Rome and the Mistress of all churches in the City of Rome and the World.
This archbasilica is a most fitting place to begin Holy Week, for not only is it the Seat of the Bishop of Rome, but the Lateran Basilica is also associated with several relics of this week of salvation. Among these are the relics of the table on which the Lord celebrated His Last Supper, the Sancta Scala at the Lateran Palace, the holy stairs which Christ climbed in Jerusalem as he went to His trail, and also the mensa of the altar on which St Peter celebrated the Eucharist.
The Procession with palms to this church, the capital church of the world, signifies Christ riding in procession and entering Jerusalem, the capital city of the world; certainly for many centuries Christians placed this Holy City at the very centre of their maps of the world. However, we also enter the church where the heads of the martyred apostles, Peter and Paul, are enshrined above the high altar. This reminds us of the fact that the Lord entered Jerusalem and would in due course go to His Martyrdom on the Holy Cross. And of course, that great Sacrifice on Calvary is made present in every Eucharist celebrated on the altars of the Church.
As such, in the Palm Sunday liturgy, the two strands of triumph and of pain, glory and agony, are interwoven and the same is true of the whole of Holy Week. Reflecting on this and the ambivalence of mankind, Fr Gerald Vann OP writes:
"One of the songs the Church sings on this day, the 'Gloria, laus', is an echo of those shouts of praise and triumph which rang through Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday: 'Glory, praise and honour be to thee, O Christ, King and Redeemer'. But its praise is a challenge to us to think of the different ways in which that praise can be given. 'This people honour me with their lips' (Isa 29:13), we read in the Old Testament; the Jews on the first Palm Sunday gave the Redeemer an allegiance which was little more than lip-service; and if we do that we shall leave him, as they did, lonely, and the words will be a mockery on our lips. No, it is for us to try to be like St Francis [of Assisi]; who flung down his garments only because in stripping himself he was stripping off greed and pleasure-seeking and selfishness and, naked like the naked flame of love, was setting off to follow and befriend the naked Christ. If we can say in effect in our song of praise: 'Father, not my will but thine be done' (Lk 22:42), we are giving glory and praise and honour indeed; for then we are trying to make our praise an invitation to the King of Glory to enter our hearts and take possession of our wills so that we may be of some use to him in the fulfillment of his purposes, the redeeming of the family of men."