The Palm Sunday liturgy is actually two liturgies joined into one. The first, the Liturgy of The Palms, sets the stage for the pivot to Passiontide and then flows seamlessly into the opening procession of the main Eucharist of Palm Sunday, which begins with a procession.


On the High Altar, the Altar Guild overlays the Lenten Array frontal (oxblood color) and fair linen with the red frontal. The sacristan will change the frontal during the Palm Procession.

MC arranges the following:

  • A small table covered with a linen cloth against the north choir stalls.
    • On it are placed palms for SMs and MC.
  • Palms for CHOIR and CHOIR CLERGY in their respective stalls.
  • The notebook with the Palm Gospel and Palm Blessing in the Verger’s stall.
  • Aspersorium and aspergillum on floor in front of north choir stalls.
  • On the credence table: the veiled Mass chalice + 2 extra, and 1 ciborium.
  • The wooden processional cross is veiled and adorned with palms.
  • The missal is placed on the missal stand at the credence.
  • Hymnals for the final hymn are set for  the SMs (at the sedilia) and TT (at their chairs).
  • Weather permitting, the procession will go outdoors; however, if the weather is inclement the procession will remain indoors.
    • If going outdoors, the AA will carry outdoor torches and the regular AA torches (turned wood) will be lit and placed in their stands at the credence before the Mass.
    • If not going outdoors, the AA will the regular AA torches (turned wood) during the procession.

D will not carry gospel book in procession — cantors from the Choir will chant the Passion Gospel.

CEL is vested in red cope and stole; D in red stole and dalmatic; SD in tunicle. Maniples are not worn.

CHOIR CLERGY are vested in red copes and stoles. Purple or oxblood stoles are placed in their stalls to be donned after the Procession. Servers and Choir are vested in cottas and black cassocks.

AA and TT light outdoor torches in Smoke Sacristy.

TH prepares thurible prior to Preparatory Prayers. Incense is not charged and blessed in Smoke Sacristy. Of note, Advent blend incense is used for the liturgy of the Palms, while myrrh is used for the Eucharist of Palm Sunday. This will require that the thurifer have a second thurible ready to go upon returning to the sacristy after the Liturgy of The Palms.


CHOIR enter via Smoke Sacristy and proceed in silence to choir stalls before Mass begins. They face altar, genuflect, and begin entrance anthem.

For entrance, MC cues servers and SMs to enter solemnly from north crossing door (the short entrance) in the following order, while Choir sings entrance anthem:


Upon arriving in the chancel:

  • TH turns to the left and takes position abutting the north choir stalls on the altar side of the table holding palms.
  • CR goes into the CR stall and puts up cross.
  • AA split and stand at the base of the choir chancel in front of crucifer and verger stalls, facing the altar.
  • CHOIR CLERGY [and MC2] take their places in stalls.
  • TT line up below altar rail, facing altar. One of the TT is designated to monitor for the cue to genuflect from MC1.
  • MC1, SD, D, and CEL proceed to the middle of choir chancel (closer to the choir gate than the altar rail) and face the altar.

When all are in place, not waiting for entrance anthem to conclude:

  • MC1 cues genuflection, which is echoed by the designated T.
    • Note: the CHOIR does not genuflect here.
  • TT, turning inward, turn to face the congregation.
  • SMs and AA remain facing altar, as MC cues TH to approach SMs for laying on and blessing of incense.
  • The TH returns to the position abutting the north choir stall.
  • MC, SMs, and TH turn to face congregation.
  • D and SD swap places behind the CEL (as for a procession).
  • AA turn inward to face each other and frame SMs.

The final organization should be:



After conclusion of entrance anthem:

  • Verger gives ritual notebook to SD.
  • SD holds book while CEL chants the Salutation and Collect.
  • SD hands ritual book to MC1, who gives it to D for the CEL’s blessing.
  • After CEL blesses D, SD moves to middle chancel step to hold book for D.
  • TH gives thurible to D, who censes book and chants the Gospel.

After Gospel:

  • SD ascends steps and presents book to CEL, who kisses it.
  • SD holds onto book for the Palm ritual.


When all are in position, MC1 places table with palms on it in front of CEL. NOTE: MC1 should rearrange palms on table so that tips face congregation, to allow easy movement around the table.)

While SD holds book, CEL intones the palm blessing.

CHOIR begins anthem.

SD hands notebook to Verger.

MC1 take the aspersorium and aspergillum from the Verger’s stall and hands them to CEL who asperses palms on the table.

In single file, SD leading with D and CEL following, they move around the table and down the steps. Once they have passed the table and descended the steps, the D and SD again flank the CEL, D on the CEL’s right and SD on the left. They then take up the edges of the CEL’s cope and proceed down main nave aisle to west door and back, aspersing people’s palms. At the back of the church, D and SD switch positions, keeping the D on CEL’s right and SD on the left. Upon reaching the crossing, they again form a single file SD, D, and CEL, in that order, ascend the steps and return to their original places behind the palm table.

CEL gives bucket and aspergillum to MC1, who puts them on the floor of the Verger’s stall.

TH gives thurible to CEL, who censes palms on the table. CEL alone (D & SD stay in place) moves to top of chancel steps and thrice censes the people’s palms. CEL gives thurible to TH.

MC1 distributes palms to SMs and cues the SMs to turn and face the altar. When the SMs turn, the TTTT likewise turn to face the altar.

MC1 then removes the table and cues the TH to lead MC1 and SMs single file to their places at altar steps, with the TH between D and MC1. As soon as TH, SMs, and MC1 have reached the altar steps, the AA and CR take their procession positions in the center of the choir chancel in preparation for the procession. TH has incense laid on and takes up position below (just west of) A CR A, also facing altar. [MC2 joins TH.]



When all are in place, MC1 cues the D to turn to congregation to bid the procession. After the response, the D again turns to face altar.

The organist plays the introduction to the processional hymn. After the introduction:

  • MC1 cues ALL to genuflect.
  • After the genuflection, simultaneously, TT turn inward, SD and D switch places (going behind the celebrant).
  • CEL, MC1, A CR A, and TH, then turn to face the congregation.
  • TH leads the procession.
  • At MC1’s cue, TT meet in pairs at center, turn to congregation and process.
  • SD and D hold edges of CEL’s cope.

Weather permitting, TH leads procession very slowly out South (Mt. Vernon Street) door, around corner, and in the West (Brimmer Street) doors, maintaining a slow pace at all times. Note: “360’s” are NOT done outdoors. [MC2 is responsible for keeping the procession on pace.] 

If the singing of the hymn falters, silence should be kept. No talking is permitted.

When most of the congregation has exited the building, the Sacristan changes the frontal from red to oxblood (by lifting the red frontal off, folding it from the ends to the middle, and taking it out to the sacristy).

The procession re-enters the church at the West door. The head of the procession may need to wait at the back of the nave for the remaining parishioners to leave the church. Note, if torches have gone out during the procession, it is unseemly to stop the entire procession to relight them.

Upon returning to the chancel, all take their usual places: SMs, MC1, and AA at the foot of the altar steps inside the rail. TT at the altar rail. CR goes to the CR stall and puts up cross.

When all are in place:

  • MC1 cues all to genuflect.
  • MC1 and SMs exit to the Priests’ Sacristy to change into oxblood vestments.
  • If the AA and TT are carrying outdoor torches, then those above the altar rail file out in order: A, TH, SD, CEL, D, MC, A, followed by the TH and then TT.
  • If the AA and TT are carrying indoor torches, they stay in place, with the TH exiting after the SMs.
  • The TH changes thuribles and boats for use with myrrh incense for the Eucharist of Palm Sunday.

If the TT have exited, they reenter together as soon as they have put up their torches, and take up their positions flanking the bishop’s throne.

When the SMs are ready, all re-enter chancel, lead by MC1, with TH carrying uncharged thurible (incense is laid on at the altar) and assume their places in the line-up at the altar steps.

If AA and TT have exited, all above the altar rail return in single file as they would line up at the altar: A, TH, SD, CEL, D, MC, A.

MC1 cues ALL to genuflect. While the hymn is still being sung, SMs ascend the altar steps. MC1, AA, and TH take their places at the credence.


When the CEL is ready, the TH presents the thurible, incense is laid on, and the altar is censed in the usual manner during the remainder of the hymn(s). MC1 places Altar Book on altar at Epistle horn. During the censing, CR and Verger collect copes and red stoles from Choir Clergy and take them out to sacristy while Choir Clergy change to oxblood/purple stoles.

After the censing, the SMs take up the center I formation, split for the salutation, and then immediately move to the Epistle horn of the altar. CEL reads the Collect of the Day, after which CEL, D, and MC1 take their places at sedilia. Immediately after Collect, SD genuflects, turns, and proceeds to the lectern to read the Lesson. (NOTE: only one Lesson today!).

SD returns to altar, genuflects, ascends altar steps and moves Altar Book to Gospel side. SD takes short route to sedilia and sits.

ALL will remain seated for gradual, tract, and first portion of the Passion Gospel. Three Choir Cantors enter, genuflect, and kneel at the altar steps. Remaining seated, the CEL blesses them according to the usual form. Cantors stand and take their places for the Passion Gospel.

ALL remain seated during the passion until the arrival at Golgotha. The exact words of the Gospel vary, but the directions are printed in the bulletin. ALL stand, and remain standing through the words,”Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.” ALL genuflect and observe a pause. At CEL’s cue, ALL rise. The Passion Gospel resumes.

At the conclusion of the Passion Gospel, the three cantors proceed to the altar rail, where they genuflect and return to their places in choir.

Since the Passion Gospel is rather long, TH should avoid firing up the coals for the Offertory prematurely.

The Celebrant or other cleric may give a very brief homily. The Verger does not escort the homilist to the pulpit.

There is no Creed.

Out of repugnance for the kiss of Judas, the Peace is not exchanged.

As usual, MC1 cues TH and TT to enter, genuflect, and TH proceeds to sedilia, where incense is laid on.

The Mass follows according to custom. [MC2 will serve the chalice in the All Saints’ Chapel.]


At the conclusion of the Mass, MC1 hands out hymnals to SMs, and ALL line up for the last hymn (Ah, Holy Jesus) in the standard formation. ALL remain standing in place, facing the altar, to sing the entire hymn, during which the organ accompaniment gradually fades out.

At the conclusion of the hymn, MC1 cues ALL (except A CR A) to genuflect. ALL turn to face the congregation and solemnly and silently exit via the north crossing door (the “short” exit).

Original web publication on Nov 12, 1999 @ 01:48pm by Julianne Ture 
Updated Apr 1, 2018 @ 10:30am by Ciarán Anthony DellaFera, BSG
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Liturgical Customary