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14 The Bible and liturgy: Palm Sunday processions 1 Introduction And when they drew nigh to Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto mount Olivet,then Jesus sent two disciples; Saying to them: Go ye into the village that is over against you, and immediately you shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them and bring them to me. And if any man shall say anything to you, say ye, that the Lord hath need of them: and forthwith he will let them go. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: Tell ye the daughter of Sion: Behold thy king cometh to thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of her that is used to the yoke. And the disciples going, did as Jesus commanded them. And they brought the ass and the colt, and laid their garments upon them, and made him sit thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way: and others cut boughs from the trees, and strewed them in the way: And the multitudes that went before and that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Mt 21:1–9) The Gospel of Matthew was read during the Palm Sunday procession and served as the rationale for the day’s liturgy. A comparison between the biblicalnarrative(withparallelsinMk11:1–11;Lk19:28–38;Jn12:12–16)and its liturgical re-enactment, however, may result in a few raised eyebrows. If ‘The liturgy was the primary context within which medieval Christians heard, read and understood the Bible’,1 then why are many of the liturgy’s crowning moments nowhere to be found or marginalised in the biblical narrative; where are elements that defined the day in medieval England: the children and the palms,the ornate gates and the familiar hymns? These liturgical traits reveal a gap between the Bible and its re-creation; they MUP_Poleg_BibleMedievalEngland.indd 14 10/07/2013 16:25 15 the bible and liturgy appear,time and again,in visual images and literary narratives and attest to the way liturgy has shaped the knowledge of biblical events. This chapter traces the gap between Bible and liturgy through a close analysis of the liturgical event, to reveal how texts, locations, performances and objects brought the Bible to life while simultaneously subjecting it to the demands offaithandexegesis.Beyondtheseamlessunityoftheliturgy,wecanappreciate how the Gospel narrative was joined with other biblical episodes, as well as apocryphal or extra-biblical texts presented in biblical guise. Palm Sunday provides a fertile ground for the study of biblical mediation . Located at the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week, it combined joy and sorrow, the unmasking of images and contemplation of the Passion. In the form of a procession, it brought the Bible into a local landscape and made parishioners into active participants in re-creating the Gospel narrative. Palm Sunday was widely depicted on church walls and lavish manuscripts; its texts reverberated in Middle English literature; and its performance was re-created in civic processions. What makes the day even more significant for the study of biblical mediation is the fact that this memorable biblical story does not lend itself easily to liturgical re-enactment .LiturgicalprocessionsweremadetoemulateChrist’sreceptionatthe outskirtsofSecond-TempleJerusaleminthetownsandvillagesofmedieval Europe.Transforming the biblical event into a liturgical spectacle required a high degree of creativity and led to unexpected logistical problems, such as the need to procure palms in cold climates.The liturgy sustained ancient Hebrew words and Graeco-Roman rituals within the medieval world,long after the reasons for their existence had ceased to exist.Liturgical ingenuity preserved the peripatetic nature of the biblical event as a procession, and cameupwithsolutionstoproblemsofprotagonists,locationandemotional response,inherent in the Gospel narrative.This chapter follows the course of the Palm Sunday procession in late medieval England. It begins with its spatial dimension, then the liturgical paraphernalia are considered, as are the stations: the chants of the first station; the Gloria laus and its spectacle that follows; a para-liturgical moment in the speech of Caiphas at the third station; and the move into liturgical time in the fourth. The chapter ends with a model for the evolution of Bible and liturgy. Palm Sunday was celebrated in variety of liturgical elaborations, from those performed in modest parish churches to those in wealthy ­cathedrals.2 Recreating these requires use of a...


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