Palm Sunday Processsion of the Lamb

edited December 1969 in Hymns Discussion
Hello everyone,

I noticed some churches begin the Palm Sunday service after the 3rd and 6th hours by entering with either "Epouro" or "Evlogimenos" the same way they enter the church during feasts. I checked the HCOC website and they do not say anything concerning that. What is the deal with this? Does anyone have a recording of this happening in churches that maybe Cantor Ibrahim prays in during the Palm Sunday service or the Cathedral with the pope?


  • I think this has been a long standing point of argument in many churches for many years. Having looked through the old Dalal books we have there is mention of a procession with the hymn Evlogymenos with the entrance of the Patriarch, however there is no mention of the offering being part of that procession. As to how this procession was adopted by many churches to be a procession of the offering I will never understand as this is not documented. I accept that Palm Sunday is a major Lordly feast, however that does not mean there should be a procession of the offering. The teaching of the church as I understand it is there are only three feasts where there is a procession of the offering which are Nativity, Theophany and Resurrection. The link with all three of these feasts also being that they are midnight liturgies (or evening) and there is a Paramoun liturgy beforehand where the Agpeya prayers are recited in their entirety.

    It is also worth noting that on the three feasts with documented processions of the offering the hymn Epouro is chanted until the choosing of the offering is complete, yet on Palm Sunday the hymn of Evlogymenos is finished and then either the Agpeya prayers are recited or if it is done after the 6th hour prayer then the 41 Kyrie Eleisons are chanted.
  • Hello Andrew,

    Thanks for sharing the current and accepted rite today, but let me raise some issues from history, since without a proper understanding of history and theology of rites, we easily become followers of the latest fashion.

    Let's not forget first of all that the entrance of the Bishop and the great procession of the offering are intrinsically two separate events, although they are often combined in current practice on those 3 major feasts, as many of us see in the Cathedral every feast. You pointed this out clearly, noting that in old Dalal's (Church Orders) the procession is done to accompany the entrance of the Bishop or Patriarch and is not related to the offering itself. This procession is what the Eastern Orthodox call The Small Entrance. Today in the Eastern Orthodox rite, the Small Entrance is more commonly associated with the procession of the Gospel book to begin the liturgy of the Word. However, for centuries, the Small Entrance was first and foremost the entrance procession of the Bishop, who until that moment in the liturgy did not enter the sanctuary or participate in the rites. This is still observed to this day in Eastern Orthodoxy when a hierarch is present, and the Small Entrance in this case acquires a double function as 1- A procession of the bishop and 2- A procession of the Gospel book. There is a remnant of this also in the Coptic rite when the vesting hymn Nisavev Tiro is chanted before the liturgy of the word, pointing to the older tradition of the bishop entering the altar and vesting at that moment and not before.

    All of this information about the Bishop's entrance is unrelated (as you pointed out) to the offering procession. This is what is called the Great Entrance in Eastern Orthodox vocabulary, and was done throughout Christendom after the dismissal of the catechumens. Today, it is done in this point only in the Byzantine and Armenian traditions. In Egypt, it persisted until about the 9th century, when it was moved to the beginning of the entire service as it is today. On some level, this makes sense since the church no longer had large numbers of Catechumens and the sharp distinction between the assembly of the word and the Eucharistic prayer began to blur. On the other hand, I find the moving of the offertory to the beginning a disruption of the natural flow of things. It is much more meaningful, not to mention more indicative of the theology of offering, to attach the physical act of procession to the altar to the congregational singing of "A mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise" which is strongly connected to the spirituality and theology of offering, a topic that I better leave aside for now.

    Be that as it may, there is no inherent relationship as you can see between evening liturgies and offertory processions. If we are to return to this beautiful ancient rite, we would do a procession in every liturgy. What I think happened here is that an ancient tradition began to slowly recede and fall out of usage throughout the year, and remained only in major feasts. Such a phenomenon is very common, so common in fact that Anton Baumstark included it as one of his 10 laws of liturgical evolution.

    Another interesting point is that I don't believe the Agpeya to be as essential as many today seem to think. Even looking at the most important Euchologion published in the modern era, the Euchologion of Heg. Abdel Messih Al-Massoudi published in 1902, you will see a curious footnote indicating that only in recent times churches started the custom of praying the hours between matins and liturgy. I can't personally recall any remark in older sources indicating the hours as an integral part of the liturgy, whereas the offertory procession is indeed a feature of our tradition and all other traditions in one form or another.

    My overarching point in all this is the following: It is fine to indicate the current practice that is customary in most places, but if some places are following a variation that -in my educated opinion- does not contradict in any way the original purpose and background of the rite, I see no problem in that whatsoever.

  • Brilliant response Ramez to which I wholr heartedly agree. My wife is EO orthodox and when attending attending liturgies  I often ferl jealous at how systematic and precise tgey are and hope obe day our churxh can be again. I say again as readibg tgrough variius liturgical books it is clear how many rituals ee have lost or have no regard for. It also upsets me that the offering does not have a ritual procession in every liturgy and I would live to see this reinstated.
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