This coming Palm Sunday will be like no other, with The Bahamas under 24-hour curfew, social distancing in play and no gatherings over 10 people permitted, to try to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, the Catholic Archdiocese of Nassau will not be hosting services on Sunday, but Archbishop Patrick Pinder is asking the faithful to mark the final Sunday of Lent, on April 5, by placing a green branch on the front door of their homes.
“It need not be a large branch or even a palm branch. It should be placed early Sunday morning,” said Pinder in his written communication to Catholics.
Shona Moss-Knowles, who worships at St. Anselm, intends to get a limb from a palm tree in her yard and place it on her door.
“I think it’s a good idea because we can’t get together in our usual assemblies,” said Moss-Knowles. “This is a good reminder that even though we have to obey the rules of the curfew, the reality is that we’re still Catholic, [still] Christian, and our own small way of remembering that we’re in the season of Lent, and our obligation as Catholics to remain prayerful and hopeful.”
On Palm Sunday, St. Anselm worshippers usually march around the Fox Hill community.
Palm Sunday is also the beginning of Holy Week, which commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified.
On Palm Sunday, the faithful often receive palm fronds, which they use to participate in the re-enactment of Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem.
The palm branch is a widely recognized symbol of peace and victory, hence its preferred use on Palm Sunday.
During Palm Sunday Mass, palms are distributed to parishioners who carry them in a ritual procession into church. The palms are blessed and may be returned to the church or kept for the year. Because the palms are blessed, they may not be discarded as trash, but are instead gathered at the church and incinerated to create the ashes to be used in the following year’s Ash Wednesday observance.
The colors of Mass on Palm Sunday are red and white, symbolizing the redemption in blood that Christ paid for the world.
Claudette Rolle, director of the Catholic Education Board, said the archbishop’s request gives her a sense of connection, and has taken her back to understand why this had to happen.
“This whole gesture makes me feel connected not only to the community, but I went back to the whole Palm Sunday service and almost to B.C. (Before Christ). I started visualizing how this Palm Sunday journey took place – the travel through the road, and it brought back vivid biblical memories of what happens.”
Pinder further wrote that the exercise of the faithful placing a branch at their door, should fully respect the rules of social distancing and the 24-hour curfew. This, as the country has 21 confirmed coronavirus cases and one confirmed death as of Wednesday. Worldwide, there have been 850,583 confirmed cases and 41,654 deaths.