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Palms and Circumstance

Egeria, a nun from Gaul on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, left us a lively record of Holy Week celebrations in fourth-century Jerusalem. Here’s her play-by-play account of Palm Sunday:

On … the Lord’s Day that begins the Paschal week (which they call here the “Great Week”), when all the customary services from cockcrow until morning have taken place in the Church of the Resurrection and at the Cross, they customarily proceed … to the greater church, which is called the martyrium. It is called the martyrium because it is in Golgotha behind the Cross, where the Lord suffered. When all the customs have been observed in the great church, and before the dismissal is made, the archdeacon lifts his voice and says first: “Throughout the whole week, beginning from to-morrow, let us all assemble in the martyrium, that is, in the great church, at the ninth hour.” Then he lifts his voice again, saying: “Let us all be ready to-day in Eleona at the seventh hour.” So when the dismissal has been made in the great church, that is, the martyrium, the bishop is escorted with hymns to the Anastasis, and after all things that are customary on the Lord’s pay have been done there, after the dismissal from the martyrium, every one hastens home to eat, that all may be ready at the beginning of the seventh hour in the church in Eleona, on the Mount of Olives, where is the cave in which the Lord was wont to teach.